On November 5, 1998, at the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA) Board of Trustees Fall, Dr. Dennis W. Barnes announced that he was stepping down as SURA President at the end of calendar year 1998. The current Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Jerry P. Draayer (Louisiana State University), was elected as Dr. Barnes' successor effective Jan. 1, 1999. In his address to the trustees, Dr. Barnes cited that significant progress and growth that occurred within SURA during his tenure since 1992, and stated that SURA was now poised for new challenges in the years ahead. Although he will be pursuing other interests, he has agreed to continue his involvement with SURA in information technology activities that he has spearheaded and to assist the new SURA President as he begins his term.
SURA is a consortium of 44 universities in the southeast that is the manager and operator of the US Department of Energy's $600M Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab). During Dr. Barnes' tenure the lab began its important mission of basic research that will build a comprehensive understanding of the atom's nucleus. With three experimental areas continuously collecting data, Jefferson Lab will help unravel questions concerning the substructure of the nucleus at the quark level — those particles that make up protons and neutrons. With industry and university partners, Jefferson Lab has a derivative mission — Free Electron Lasers(FEL) based on technology the laboratory developed to conduct its physics experiments. Construction of the first FEL was completed in 1997 and currently holds the world's record for high average power FELs at 311 watts (previous record was 11 watts held by Vanderbilt University's FEL).
The new president, Dr. Jerry Draayer, is a professor of Computer Science and Physics at Louisiana State University where he has been employed since 1975. Dr. Draayer has served on the SURA Board of Trustees since 1985 and currently is the Chair. He has also served as the Chair of the New Projects Committee. from 1991 to 1993, Dr. Draayer successfully lead the SURA Contract Negotiation Team in the award of the performance based-contract awarded to by the US Department of Energy to SURA for the management and operation of Jefferson Lab. Dr. Draayer has been active in the governing of LSU during his tenure by serving as Chair of the Department of Physics, and as Vice President of the Faculty Senate. In addition, Dr. Draayer is the Associate Commissioner for R&D for the Louisiana Board of Regents. His main research interest is the mathematical modeling of nuclear structure for heavy nuclei and has authored over 100 referred papers.