National Science Foundation Director tours U of R as Sen. Schumer pushes for more investments for innovation & jobs

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Today the director of the National Science Foundation made a visit to the University of Rochester to see first-hand how the Finger Lakes Region is driving innovation and jobs across the country.

“This is the number one place. Why? Because we have got the ideas, innovation, talent and the environment all coming together. This is the crucible of innovation,” NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan said.

The University of Rochester is being recognized for its tech research hub, powering the next generation of research and good-paying tech jobs across the country.

Panchanathan got to tour the universities research facilities and meet with scientists and students.

“This morning I spent time in the laser laboratory and then I spent time in the physical frontier center with Chris and the team with Rip and the team,” Panchanathan said. “It was just unbelievable watching the amazing ideas, the amazing talent, the amazing impact, the amazing innovation that is coming out through every one of those students, postdocs and faculty members and researchers. It’s phenomenal to watch this.”

U of R Director of Institute of Optics Tom Brown said this is a recognition of something that’s been going on for a long time as they grow their laser lab which supports nearly 900 jobs for Rochester scientists, engineers and technicians.

“Altogether these things put together a package of light-based technology that just both improve people’s lives but also have spanned hundreds of companies,” Brown said. "Many of those companies have been established right here in Rochester.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer said the pending U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and the House’s America Competes Act will make significant investments in federal research in STEM education and workforce training.

“At the Institute of Optics, we have 170 undergraduates, we have 45 master’s students and we have 140 students,” Brown said. “Over 300 students that are all working on science and technology problems that are going to be responsible for either growing new companies or starting new companies.”

Sen. Schumer said the final step in the legislation is to send it to President Biden to sign into law.