Cyclotron Institute

Texas A&M University

(Left to right:  The Honorable John Raney, State Representative, District 14, Texas House of Representatives; Mr. Michael K. Young, President, Texas A&M University; Norbert Dittrich, President, The Welch Foundation; Dr. Timothy J. Hallman, Associate Director of Science for Nuclear Physics, United States Department of Energy)

The Cyclotron Institute, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was one of the sparks that ignited research at Texas A&M, according to its director Sherry Yennello. Since 1967, the Cyclotron Institute has served as the core of Texas A&M's nuclear science program and as a major technical and educational resource for the state, nation and world. The Welch Foundation, along with the state of Texas and the U.S. Department of Energy (then the Atomic Energy Commission), provided the initial funding for the institute.

The original cyclotron, a machine that can accelerate charged particles to fractions of the speed of light, was replaced 20 years later with a more sophisticated machine still in use today. The particle accelerator provides important insights for many areas of scientific research.

The Welch Foundation's invitation in 1961 for the university to submit a proposal to build a modern cyclotron on campus was the start, Dr. Yennello said, of what became a major turning point in Texas A&M's transition from an agricultural and mechanical college to the major research entity it is today. Nobel Prize winners Glenn Seaborg, long-time Welch Scientific Advisory Board member, and Willard Libby helped dedicate the Texas A&M Cyclotron Institute on Dec. 4, 1967. 

“It is fantastic that an early Foundation investment in Texas research is still paying dividends 50 years later,” said Welch President Norbert Dittrich. “This is concrete, long-lasting example of how our mission to advance chemistry to improve lives has helped build Texas’ research capacity while expanding our understanding of the world in so many different directions.”

"We look at the work that started 50 years ago and we see what we have become, with one of the top programs in the country, with the amount of funding that's available, with the breakthroughs that have been made by so many of the great professors who are with us here today, because there was that vision, there was that moment, and there was that ambition on the part of this university that we can do this," said A&M President Michael Young.