Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Professor Says Loss of Lab Assistant|Could Endanger National Security

TUCSON (CN) - A physics professor sued the University of Arizona, saying that if it cuts the funding for his research assistant, as planned, it will hurt his reputation - and the "security of the United States." Charles M. Falco, chairman of Condensed Matter Physics, claims the budget cut will "definitely" result in the failure of research projects with the Department of Energy and NASA, which "involve the national, economic and energy security of the United States."

Falco says that in 1997, while he was being courted by another school, the UA promised him roughly $63,000 a year to fund a research assistant position. The assistant takes care of the machine shop and the intricate vacuums, X-rays, cryogenics and electron microscopy required for his research.

The promised funding has been challenged and reaffirmed several times over the years, but in 2008 UA officials cut the position as part of a 3 percent across-the board-reduction, according to the complaint in Pima County Court.

Falco says the funding cut violates his contract, and the loss of his research assistant jeopardizes his grant-funded projects with NASA and the Department of Energy.

Falco says that such a default will "irreparably damage [his] national and international reputation, and will make it much more difficult ... to obtain grants in the future from federal funding agencies."

He says both of his projects are in the national interest.

For the DOE he is designing "artificial magnetic nanostructures" that could be used "to reduce the already small electrical loss in U.S. power line transformers by as much as 50 percent."

For NASA he is designing camera filters for "very specific wavelengths of light, which will have to survive the intense radiation belt around Jupiter" during a planned mission to that planet's moons, Europa and Io.

"Unless reversed within the next few weeks, the university's action makes it impossible for [Falco] to meet his commitments to NASA. It also makes it highly unlikely that he can meet the commitments of his DOE contract," the complaint states.

Falco sued the Arizona Board of Regents for breach of contract, bad faith, and promissory estoppel. He wants the court to reinstate the funding immediately and prohibit "any further breaches" by the UA.He is represented by John Gabroy with Gabroy Rollman

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