The Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory has hosted visitors and researchers from many countries around the world, but none yet from Pakistan.
Until last summer. That’s when MIBL director, Professor Gary Was, was contacted by a doctoral scholar, Shafaq Arif, in physics from Lahore College for Women University. She was interested in spending a six-month fellowship in the MIBL.
The timing, unfortunately, wasn’t right. “We were still in the middle of renovations when she contacted us,” Was explained. The MIBL has been undergoing a major renovation to install a new Tandem 3 MV accelerator and greatly expand the capability of the laboratory to put it at the forefront of such facilities in the world.
But Was was still able to help the researcher with her work. “We agreed to help her out by conducting irradiations to implant different metals — iron, silver, gold and other metals — into polymers, which can enhance properties by orders of magnitude. Shafaq would send us samples, and Fabian Naab would do the irradiations and send them back to her,” he said.
A few months later another doctoral researcher, Shehla Honey, this time from University of Punjab, also in Lahore, contacted Was. She, too, was interested in coming to the MIBL for a six-month fellowship.
The two researchers seem to have found the MIBL independently. “We have some good visibility, but I’m not exactly sure how they learned about us,” Was said. “It’s interesting that they both found out about us in a relatively short period of time.”
Now that the lab’s renovations are nearing completion, it’s a better time to host visitors. Was sent Ms. Honey a formal invitation, which she will use in her fellowship application to the Pakistan Science Foundation.
The researcher’s areas of interest mesh well with the work underway in the MIBL. “I think it will be instructive for her to follow her own interests using the capabilities here and with some guidance and assistance,” Was said. “We’ll work with her to sharpen the focus of her project, so she can get a lot done if she comes here. Six months is not a lot of time in terms of research. These are big instruments, and experiments can take a long time.”
Besides experimental results, Was sees international visitors to the MIBL leave with two additional take-aways: exposure to a different culture and the opportunity to work with new equipment and new techniques.
When the expansion is completed, MIBL will be the only triple-beam facility in the United States and one of only three in the world, and “taking some of that knowledge back is huge for visitors,” Was said.
Was, his students and lab staff also gain a lot from visitors, and he hopes the researcher will receive the fellowship she’s applying for so the MIBL can host her.
“Projects come from all over the globe, and that gives ample opportunity for us to learn and to be exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking. We continually enrich our understanding and capabilities that way,” Was said. Often foreign visits lead to collaborations, joint proposals, cultural exchanges and opportunities to co-advise graduate students, he added.
“A lot of these things get started by folks using the lab. It’s very much in line with U-M’s mission to make this university a global enterprise and providing our students with a global education. You can get that from studying abroad, and you can also get it from interacting here with people from other places.”