Associated Universities, Inc.

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Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI)
AUI logo.jpg
Logo of the Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI)
Formation 1946
Purpose To manage research facilities for the benefit of the international scientific community and the public.
Headquarters Washington, D.C., United States
Official language

Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) is a research management corporation that builds and operates facilities for the research community. AUI is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, headquartered in Washington, DC. The President and Chief Executive Officer is Ethan J. Schreier. AUI’s major current operating unit is the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which it operates under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.


AUI was established in 1946 as an educational institution dedicated to research, development, and education in the physical, biological and engineering sciences. Nine northeastern universities joined in sponsoring AUI in 1946: Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, University of Rochester, and Yale University.

AUI was granted an absolute charter by the Board of Regents of the State University of New York Education Department, which called for AUI to "acquire, plan, construct and operate laboratories and other facilities" that would unite the resources of universities, other research organizations and the Federal Government. It was envisioned that AUI would create facilities and laboratories so large, complex, and costly as to be outside the scope of a single university. These facilities were to be made available on a competitive basis to all qualified scientists without regard to affiliation, as well as to resident scientific staff.

Over the years, AUI took on a broad national character with a diversified Board of Trustees from universities and other institutions across the country. The nine founding universities are still represented, although ties to their administrations are not of a formal nature.

From 1947 until 1998, AUI was responsible for building and then managing the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), a multi-disciplinary science research center located on Long Island, New York. In that period, AUI/BNL were responsible for the design, development, construction, and operation of numerous major facilities, the most recent being the National Synchrotron Light Source and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. During AUI’s management at Brookhaven, six Nobel prizes were awarded for research conducted wholly or partially at BNL. Four of those prizes were awarded to scientists at the laboratory, in 1957, 1976, 1980 and 1988. AUI lost the contract to manage the BNL in 1998 in the wake of a 1994 fire at the facility's high-beam flux reactor that exposed several workers to radiation and reports in 1997 of a leak of tritium into the groundwater of the Long Island Central Pine Barrens, on which the facility sits.[1][2]

In 1955, AUI proposed the establishment of a national radio observatory and has managed the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) for NSF since its creation in 1956.

In 2002, AUI was named by NSF as the North American Executive for the international Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

In 2008, AUI, together with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), created the Virtual Astronomical Observatory LLC, to manage the Virtual Astronomical Observatory for NSF and NASA.

AUI Facilities[edit]

National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)[edit]

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), headquartered in Charlottesville, VA, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) operated by Associated Universities, Inc. under cooperative agreement with the United States National Science Foundation. NRAO designs, builds, and operates high sensitivity radio telescopes for use by scientists around the world.

NRAO telescopes are open to all astronomers regardless of institutional or national affiliation. Observing time on NRAO telescopes is available on a competitive basis to qualified scientists after evaluation of research proposals on the basis of scientific merit, the capability of the instruments to do the work, and the availability of the telescope during the requested time. NRAO also provides both formal and informal programs in education and public outreach for teachers, students, the general public, and the media. NRAO’s facilities are discussed below.

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)[edit]

The Southern Milky Way Above ALMA.[3]

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the world’s most advanced millimeter/submillimeter observatory, is located on the Chajnantor plateau of the Chilean Andes near San Pedro de Atacama, 5000 m above sea level. ALMA was built by an international partnership comprising North America, Europe and East Asia, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. AUI is the North American Executive for ALMA.

ALMA is an international astronomy facility, a single research instrument composed of 66 high-precision antennas which will enable transformational research into the physics of the cold Universe, regions that are optically dark but shine brightly in the millimeter portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Providing astronomers with a new window on celestial origins, ALMA will probe the first stars and galaxies and directly image the formation of planets.

ALMA is funded in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan, in Europe by the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) and in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC). ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), on behalf of Europe by ESO and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI).

Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT)[edit]

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. The 100-meter Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is located in a radio quiet zone in Green Bank, West Virginia.

Very Large Array (VLA)/ Expanded Very Large Array[edit]

Very Large Array

The Very Large Array (VLA), an array of 27 25-meter antennas, is located on the Plains of San Agustin about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Dedicated in 1980, it is an exceedingly powerful scientific instrument that has transformed many areas of astronomy, and has been used by more astronomers and has produced more scientific papers than any other radio telescope in the world. Even after more than a quarter of a century, the VLA exceeds all other radio astronomy facilities with its combination of sensitivity, flexibility, speed, and overall imaging quality. The VLA is currently being rebuilt as a new observatory, the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA). The EVLA will provide a radio telescope of unprecedented sensitivity, resolution, and imaging capability, by modernizing and extending the existing Very Large Array. When completed, the EVLA will have sensitivity improvements of an order of magnitude, with frequency between 1.0 and 50 GHz, with up to 8 GHz bandwidth per polarization. The modifications are well over 50% complete, and early science with the VLA is expected in 2010.

VLBA Locations

Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA)[edit]

The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a continent-wide radio telescope system offering the greatest resolving power of any astronomical instrument operational today. It is a system of ten identical 25-meter radio-telescope antennas, spread from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, across the continental United States, to Mauna Kea, Hawaii, working together as a single instrument.

Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO)[edit]

The Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO) will act as an enabling and coordinating structure which will provide access to data sets, create and maintain data protocols and standards, and provide analysis tools and services to the astronomical research and educational community. The VAO is a U.S. funded project, supported by the NSF and NASA, involving a broad cross-section of national astronomical data providers. The VAO works closely with similar international projects. AUI is a managing partner in the VAO, together with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), and NRAO is one of many participating institutions.


AUI has joined a university-based team that is planning to build and operate a 25-meter submillimeter telescope on the Cerro Chajnantor peak adjacent to ALMA in Chile. AUI strongly endorses CCAT's science potential and hopes to help the US community at large benefit from CCAT, with its complementarity to ALMA. In addition to supporting CCAT in Chile-related functions, legal, logistic, operational, etc., AUI would help engage the US astronomy community in CCAT. If public funding is obtained for CCAT, AUI would help represent the broader community in CCAT governance and coordinate peer-review for any community share of CCAT observing.