The National Science Foundation's award of $4.5 million to Norfolk State University to study materials that react to light is good news for the historically black school. And it prompts the observation that Hampton Roads has quietly become a not-insignificant link in a national network of scientific and technical research.
The transformation is salutary. An inventory of all the research projects under way at NASA Langley and the Jefferson Lab and Hampton University on the Peninsula and Hampton University on the Peninsula and Eastern Virginia Medical School, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk surely would be impressive. Even more impressive would be an inventory that included research being conducted by private companies, such as Newport News Shipbuilding and the Norfolk-based FACE Companies.
Norfolk State acquired its Center for Materials Research in 1992 for the study of crystals, plastics and other substances. The center was expanded with a 1994 grant of $10 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. Much of the center's research involves communications and computer materials.
What scientists do is barely comprehensible to most of us. But breakthoughs in science and technology alter the way we live, brighten individual and national futures, lengthen and enhance the quality of our lives - and fuel economic progress.
Except at NASA Langley, scant scientific and technical research took place in Hampton Roads until the 1980s. The gradual flowering of research has expanded the region's intellectual capital and strengthened the regional economy. All of which is welcome, and a harbinger of more of the same.
Submitted: Monday, November 23, 1998 - 12:00am