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05/31/2008 - Applied Sciences Laboratory Up and Running

Spokane’s first contract research laboratory, The Applied Sciences Laboratory (ASL) – the applied research component of Washington State University’s (WSU) Institute of Shock Physics – is currently conducting research for companies and federal agencies on the Riverpoint Campus. ASL’s focus is applied research and technology in the physical sciences and engineering with an emphasis on energy, national security, and advanced materials applications.

Moving beyond basic research toward contemporary applications, ASL is a contract research organization. ASL’s business model uses a multi disciplinary approach to integrate aspects of basic science, applied research, and engineering development to meet client needs. ASL scientists conduct research projects for government agencies and private corporations on a contract basis. Along with applied research, ASL is well-suited to spur economic development in the region by attracting business in the tech-sector and creating spin-off businesses. Yet another goal is to provide students with research opportunities in the Spokane region.

At this time, ASL has five scientists based on the Riverpoint campus; along with two post-doctoral fellows. Although each scientist has a specialty, his area of knowledge can be used in all of ASL’s major focus areas. For example, Dr. Santanu Chaudhuri’s specialty is computational chemistry, for which he needs high-performance computing power. His models predict the behavior of new materials with possible uses for advanced materials and alternative-energy technologies. Modeling reduces research costs by predicting if a material will work for the purpose needed before extra time, energy, and money are used on further development.
Other scientists include Dr. Hergen Eilers, whose specialty is nanomaterials and physics. His research projects are related to sensors, including research on the infrared spectrum that may have implications for post-silicon solar panels. Dr. Paul Park creates new materials and enhances existing materials. It is said that he is “devoted to the advancement of nano-science from the laboratory into the real world.” Dr. Atakan Peker discovered and developed a new set of alloys with non-crystalline atomic structure – similar to glass -- with high strength that is “stronger than steel.” This material might be used for applications as diverse as orthopedic implants, fine jewelry, and munitions.

Research and development and its implications for Spokane’s economic development come with a cost. Although ASL is part of WSU, it is an externally funded organization. Contract funding may not be used to “create the infrastructure needed to conduct this level of research; nor is it sufficient to hire the additional Nobel-prize quality senior scientists that will be needed as ASL grows,” according to Karin Olsen, Director of Development. Therefore; WSU and ASL are raising funds with a goal of creating a $15 million fund including an endowment for ASL. The funds are for recruiting and retaining entrepreneurial scientists – funds which the state will match – and for facilities. The hope is to have a building dedicated to the ASL on the Riverpoint campus in the future.

Individuals, organizations, and foundations have all granted funds to ASL, according to Olsen. Some have given direct support; others have given gifts in conjunction with research and development contracts. These funds are specific to ASL with the requirement that the funds will stay in Spokane for contract research. Of course, all gifts are tax deductible. At this time, the Harriet Cheney Cowles foundation will match all gifts to ASL at $50,000 and over. Please contact Karin Olsen at (509) 358-7565; for more information about the ASL Fund and Endowment opportunity.

For more information about ASL , visit

Billie Moreland
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