Mark Pierson, former deputy director of the materials and physical sciences department of the Office of Naval Research, has been named project manager for Virginia Tech’s effort to secure the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), announced Provost Mark McNamee, who is principal investigator on the research proposal.

DUSEL is a proposed national laboratory, where experiments in physics, geosciences, mining, geoengineering, biology and other areas could be carried out. A team lead by Virginia Tech scientists has submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build the laboratory in the vicinity of the Kimballton Mine in Giles County. The NSF will select three to five proposals and provide up to $500,000 to each for six months to create detailed conceptual plans.

A decision is anticipated as early as mid June, according to Bruce Vogelaar, associate professor of physics at Virginia Tech and director of the project.

According to University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences Robert Bodnar, who is co-principal investigator and chair of the DUSEL Kimballton executive committee, Pierson will be responsible for ensuring that plans and tasks identified by the executive committee are carried out, that all stakeholders are informed of the progress and the status of activities, and that proper university and local, state, and Federal guidelines and regulations are strictly adhered to at all times.

Other co-principal investigators are Raju Raghavan of Virginia Tech, Herbert Einstein of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Robert Hatcher of the University of Tennessee.

Pierson had a 23-year naval career before coming to Virginia Tech in 2002 to pursue his Ph.D. in mathematics, which he received at the spring commencement ceremony. In the Navy, he attained the rank of commander and was program manager for the Strategic Ballistic Missile Security program, where he administered a $30 million program.

The team assembled for the conceptual design planning effort includes more than 60 internationally recognized experts in fields such as rock mechanics and underground construction, uncertainty and risk analysis/assessment, environmental assessment, public relations and consensus building, education and outreach, and management of major projects.

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