UAlbany and CNSE should merge

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I was energized to hear Governor Kathy Hochul lay out a vision in her upstate for a sweeping investment in the State University of New York that will be good for my constituents and for all of New York.

Specifically, Hochul’s proposal to bring UAlbany and the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering together is one we can all go along with.

As an engineer, former state legislator, and now chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, this is an issue close to my heart. I have witnessed the remarkable power of SUNY to act as an engine of economic and social opportunity for New Yorkers while paving the way for important scientific advances on society’s greatest challenges. This is the driving goal of a strong public university system like SUNY, and a UAlbany and a CNSE together embody this unconditional good.

CNSE was founded in UAlbany in 2001 and quickly became a world-renowned center for nanotechnology research and development that helped attract GlobalFoundries to Saratoga County, one of the biggest economic development stunts in the country. history of upstate New York. You don’t have to rehash CNSE’s 2014 split from UAlbany to understand that reuniting it with the university that founded it is in the best interest of both institutions, their students, their faculty, and New York.

Hochul rightly argued that to be globally competitive, SUNY must maximize its research while remaining true to the fundamental principle that it remains affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers.

Investing in UAlbany means investing in a Carnegie 1-ranked research institution with a student body that racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically resembles New York City and has been repeatedly praised for closing academic gaps among minority students.

The fact that UAlbany enrolls a higher percentage of black and Latino undergraduate students than any other research campus in the system is more than a fluke. Indeed, at the heart of the University at Albany’s commitment to its new College of Engineering and Applied Science is the prospect that the University at Albany will be uniquely positioned to help diversify the workforce -New York high-tech workmanship.

That’s the real virtue of Hochul’s plan. Bringing UAlbany and CNSE together makes a powerful statement that the highest frontiers of scientific exploration are not just for exclusive ivory towers. More than that, a thoughtful reunification of these campuses will open up exciting new avenues of research, just as my colleagues and I in Congress are pushing for an unprecedented expansion of research funding through the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department. of Energy.

The prospect of greater collaboration between these two already formidable research insights is nothing short of exhilarating and should excite anyone interested in the economic dynamism of the Capital Region.

There are natural synergies between the University of Albany’s biological and biomedical science programs and its world-renowned RNA Institute and CNSE’s groundbreaking work in nanoscience, nanobioscience, and nanoengineering. The reunification would strengthen collaborations between researchers on both campuses and support cutting-edge science like the COVID-19 saliva monitoring program developed by the RNA Institute and UAlbany’s School of Public Health.

Additionally, CNSE researchers are already among the most frequent users of UAlbany’s Ion Beam Lab, which has been pushing the boundaries of particle research for five decades.


In fact, NSF data from 2013 – the year before the split – shows that UAlbany and CNSE were already over $500 million in annual research and development funding, and that was before UAlbany opened its new center. ETEC research and applied learning facility on the Harriman State Office Campus, where Hochul also wisely plans to build a new state-of-the-art public health laboratory at the Wadsworth Center.

Semiconductor research at CNSE aligns perfectly with UAlbany’s signature strengths in climate science, emergency preparedness, health sciences and cybersecurity, as these clusters are large data consumers that require massive computing infrastructure.

In many ways, reunification is a misnomer because the campuses have remained inextricably linked despite their separation. Yet the governor’s proposal goes far beyond administrative efficiency. It’s a recommitment to the idea that New York should have the best public university system in the country, that it should lead to discoveries that change society for the better, and that the life-changing opportunity to be involved in this process should be open to all people.

This was the vision behind Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s expansion of the SUNY system in the 1960s, which transformed UAlbany from a regional teachers’ college into an international research center that would later spawn the CNSE and energize the technological economy of the capital region.

Hochul’s plan to unite UAlbany and CNSE shows that she clearly understands this, and I look forward to working with her in my capacity as a congressman to make this happen.

Representative Paul Tonko of Amsterdam represents the 20th congressional district.

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