The Michigan Daily- Friday, November 15, 1991 - Page 5
This weekend, the University
will hold a conference to talk
.What goes on inside the buildings ofNortb Campus?
by Andrew Levy
Daily Staff Reporter
The Union. C.C. Little. The Bur-
ton Tower. East Quad. The Diag.
CCRB. Hill Auditorium. Crisler
Just say these words, and anyone
even remotely associated with the
University - student, faculty,
alumni - knows what you're de-
But as they are walking down the
street in front of Hill Auditorium,
people see those lumbering gray-
and-blue buses stop in front of the
Dental School, with destinations at
mythical places like "Northwood,"
wherever that is.
"Northwood. Isn't that a city
next to Novi?"
Just so you know... the buses do
"Wait... I think I know where..."
The Commons. G.G. Brown.
Dow. Baits. NCRB. Bursley. The
For anyone who doesn't know,
doesn't care,tdoesn't care to know,
or just tries to avoid it at all costs,
these are all places on...
".North Campus, right?"
Yes, that's right. North Campus.
That 800-acre enclave someplace
after the lab's stint as a brick stor-
age facility, it was taken over by the
ion beam people.
"Those guys back there generate
neutrons. They have a 14 million-
electron-volt nuclear source. All I
know is that when they generate
neutrons, we stay away," Damcott
They don't just generate neu-
trons, they measure them, compare
them, and bombard targets with
That, in particular, is called Ion
Beam Assisted Deposition (IBAD).
"In IBAD, what they do is make
thin coatings of things, and observe
it when you blast it with ions," she
And that's not all that goes on in
this stealthy structure.
"This building is shared with
naval architecture and marine engi-
neering, but there's two nuclear en-
gineering labs. This one, and the
Plasma lab next door," Damcott
said, and then she whispered, "Theyl
used to do fusion in there. They1
don't anymore." t
Across the street from the ion
beam lab, there is a building whosei
shape defies reason. From one side ofi
the Aerospace Engineering Building
protrudes a tube about 200 feet
long, winding around the building,
gradually getting wider. Just what
it's for is not certain. And, though
this building has a number of doors,
the vast majority of them are
Just inside one of the few un-
locked doors, there is a mock-up of a
General Electric jet engine, designed
in part at the University. Within the
dark, quiet building, there is re-
search going on related to every-
thing from jet propulsion to grain
Gary Gould, an engineering tech-
nician in the building, pointed out a
tube suspended from the ceiling.
"That tube stretches the whole
length of the building," Gould said.
Into the tube, they put flour or corn
starch and ignite it, in order to fig-
ure out how they can prevent grain
elevators and silos from exploding.
"There's a cloud of dust, and
some little spark triggers 'em off,
and 'Boom-bo!' When they set that
off, it makes a huge crash," Gould
said. "It's kind of hard to under-
stand, 'cause I don't even understand
Ken Buch, a post-doctorate in the
Aerospace Engineering department,
pointed out some of the applications
for the jet propulsion research going
"There's applications for... pol-
lution control, and other environ-
mental issues. Like trying to remove
nitrous oxide from burners, and
stuff like that."
Yeah... stuff like that.
Space Research Building
It is interesting to note that this
building has a number of doors, all
of them unlocked and easy to find.
"We do everything from
weather up through comets and
planetary atmospheres in here," said
Ned Snell, a graduate student who
works at the University's Space
Physics Research Laboratory
it in its in-
not what the
else in Ann Arbor where engineers
go to CRISP, and where one will
find first-year students who send in
their housing forms late.
But, even for those who do know
that it exists, few people have any
idea just what goes on deep inside
the curious buildings of North
The Michigan Ion
On Hayward Street, a sign on a
hill reads, "Michigan Ion Beam
Laboratory." The only building re-
motely near that sign sticks five
feet out of the ground and has no
doors. No doors, and no lab to be
But it does exist. The lab is se-
curely tucked away underground -
two receptionists, a few graduate
students, and a couple of stairwells
away. And, if that isn't enough dis-
couragement, signs on the door to
the lab read: "CAUTION: Radia-
tion Hazard," and "Flammable
On the inside is a vast space,
filled with tin-foil covered vacuum
chambers and machines sporting red
"This used to be the cyclotron
lab - probably before we were
born," said Debbie Damcott, a grad-
uate student in the nuclear engineer-
ing program who works in the lab.
But after the cyclotron got sent
to Michigan State University, and
Clockwise from top
Stevenson stands in
the METN control
The foil-covered IBAM
apparatus at the
Michigan Ion Beam
The lab has "sent up" 26 satel-
lite instruments, including the
High-Resolution Doppler Imager
that recently was launched on the
Upper Atmosphere Research Satel-
lite. All of them were developed on
"Our lab competes well with
NASA's Jet Propulsion Labora-
tory," Snell said, adding that one of
the lab's current projects is a sub-
contracting job on "an Antarctic
balloon that NASA is developing."
In another room, stuffed with
meters, desks, computers of all dif-
ferent sizes and shapes, and tons of
other equipment that the average
person couldn't identify, Snell
paused, pointing into a lab where
some researchers were working.
"It looks like they're doing
some power supply development
for another satellite," he said non-
Each room in the building is a
different lab for a different space-
Tong Shyn, an SPRL research sci-
entist, was studying atmospheric
"We are doing basically atomic
physics for the space program. That
includes taking cross-sections of
atmospheric gases. It is vital to the
space program," Shyn said.
G.G. Brown Building
There are about a million labs on
the third floor of the G.G. Brown
Building, or so it seems. The corri-
dors are endless, filled with doors
that have ominous scientific warn-
ings like "CAUTION: Biohazard."
And on one door is a sign that
says, "Bioprocess engineering:
BUGS 'R' US."
The phrase "bioprocess engineer-
ing" appearing on the same sign as
the word "bugs?" It almost sounds
like another sequel to "The Fly."
What kind of mutant insect could
they possibly be developing in
there? The answer is none.
"Each one of these
(bioengineering) labs has their spe-
cific thing. This one deals with bac-
teria - 'bugs,"' said Prashanth Ma-
hendra, an Engineering senior.
"I'm trying to make microcap-
sules that we will eventually put
cells inside of to do tests on. Some
of the grad students have been able
to get the capsules down to a half-
millimeter in diameter," Mahendra
said while holding a beaker full of
the purple microcapsules.
Jaime Ramirez-Vick, an engineer-
ing graduate student who works in
the lab, explained that the main ap-
plication is in isolating a specific
item needed to make a certain drug.
"How viable your product is re-
lies on only one step. If that is the
most expensive step, then they can't
sell the drug because it is too expen-
sive," Ramirez-Vick said. "That
step is usually the separation step."
The capsules are useful, the sci-
entists said, because they can encap-
sulate a "magnet" for these impor-
Library, is an unwelcoming double
steel door with a sign that reads
"Michigan Engineering Television
The University has a television
network? Yes. Along with the ion
accelerators, jet engines, and satel-
lites is a television network.
Dwight Stevenson, an Associate
Dean in the Engineering school and
the director of METN, commented
on why the network keeps such a
"This facility was constructed
really about. And this weekend's
conference was put together to
dispel that kind of mockery and
misinterpretation in order to get to
the real issues at stake.
"You're not going to see a lot
of fighting over catch-phrases this
weekend," said Richard
Campbell, a conference organizer
and professor in the communica-
tions department. "This is a
chance to debate."
It's a little late in coming, and
probably not enough to do the job
thoroughly, but still, I think it's a
For at least the past year and a;
half, anyone eager to bash liberal
ideas has had to do little more
than scream "P.C.!" to dismiss
legitimate debates about our
changing society. By conjuring up
the stereotype of a birkenstock-
wearing, inclusive-speaking threat
to free speech and the establish-
ment, they successfully reduce
important arguments to meaning-
Instead of discussing why we
should or should not include
ethnic minorities, women and
people of differing sexual
orientation completely into our
society, we end up talking about
gender-inclusive language. Or,
instead of arguing about expand-
ing the classroom view of history,
we talk about whether we should
say "people of color" or "minor-
tant suostances in tne microcap-
sules, easily isolating them for
Herbert Dow Building
As far as North Campus build-
ings go, there are an awful lot of
people in the Dow Building. The
place is huge and confusing, with
more endless hallways.
On the third floor, the image of a
student at work appears through the
tiny, vertical window on the door of
a lab. A long, thin tube extends
about two feet off the table, and
there is a steady stream of bubbles
rising through whatever fluid is in-
side the tube.
But, as with many things seen
through windows on North Cam-
pus, this set-up is far from being the
most important thing in the lab.
"We're examining how fluids
pass through porous rocks," said
Matthew Miller, a chemical engi-
neering graduate student and re-
searcher for the Porous Media Re-
search Group. He pointed to a more
complicated apparatus with gauges,
lights, cylinders, and computers
that probably require a Ph.D. to un-
derstand. "It is mainly for enhanced
oil recovery applications.
"We're basically trying to make
thA nrne ._nana and - oa1
after the building was already here.
In fact, the two main things that are
down here are the engin library and
METN," Stevenson said.
The North Campus METN grew
out of the former studio, located on
"We were the first public Uni-
versity to broadcast graduate engi-
neering courses directly into indus-
try. We started that in 1969,"
Stevenson said. "We built this stu-
dio from scratch starting in 1985."
METN broadcasts live lectures
from a specially-equipped lecture
hall to outside organizations, and
controls student response through a
computer system. Beyond that, it
uses its $900,000-plus of hardware
to help students and faculty produce
"That's a good illustration of a
function. A grad student wants to
make a presentation for promotion,
research, or teaching staff," Steven-
Stevenson said one University
professor uses the facility to help
students with their homework.
"It was created so a professor
critiques a particular assignment in
the textbook, and the tapes are all
on reserve in the library," he ex-
We talk about semantics
instead of substance, and images
instead of issues.
It's a lot like something the f
Rev. Al Sharpton talked about
when he spoke here two weeks
ago. He said that too often in New
York, debates over racial tension *
revolve around him instead of the
underlying reasons for the tension
itself. The issue has become Al
Sharpton and his personal actions,.
he said, while the city's racially
divided neighborhoods continue
to boil over.
Of course, Rev. Sharpton
hasn't often been someone who
shuns the media spotlight. But I
find a good deal of truth in what
he said, and a pretty strong
parallel between that and the P.C.
It's time to focus on the the
issues themselves, and to forget
about the icons. That's what this
conference is all about.
Though two discussions about
the P.C. backlash itself will take
place tonight, the rest of the
weekend will be devoted to
debates on affirmative action and
curriculum changes, among other
And while we take part in the
exchanges this weekend, I hope
we can all be tolerant of every
view expressed, no matter how
offensive or inappropriate it might
be. A truly open debate would
have to recognize the value of
everyone's input, and these issues
are too important for anyone to be
Campbell, the conference
organizer, said he thinks the
program will be educational.
"I'm looking forward to an
open debate this weekend," he
said. "And I'm going into it with
an open mind. I'm willing to
listen to opposing views, and I
may even change my mind about
Campbell added that he hopes
the conference will spark a
continuing campus discussion.
As someone who rarely, if
ever, declines a good argument,
I'm alo lnnkirny fnrward tn this