WSU, AFRL announce strengthened access for Air Force researchers

‘First of its kind’ pact opens door to advanced research university MRI scanner

In what’s being called an agreement unique to the Dayton region, Air Force and civilian leaders are hailing a pact that gives Air Force researchers access to a Wright State University lab and office space in the Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building on campus.

“It is a first step, building on some previous grassroots activity, that will continue to expand in the future,” Timothy Bunning, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said in a release from Wright State Tuesday.

The Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building houses what the university says is the region’s only advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner dedicated solely to research.

Madhavi Kadakia, vice provost for research and innovation at Wright State, said the agreement was the “first of its kind for our region.”

Seth Bauguess, a Wright State spokesman, said the agreement “is certainly groundbreaking” for the university. He also said the agreement is unique to the region in that no other local university has had an agreement like this one.

He noted that Department of Defense grant funds helped pay for crucial research equipment at Wright State, in this case, the MRI scanner. The Air Force is not paying for the access beyond that DOD contribution to the scanner, Bauguess added.

ExploreMRI scanner will spark new Wright State-Air Force collaboration

“This agreement strengthens our already valued partnership with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and is value-added to their research,” said Sue Edwards, president of Wright State. “Additionally, the enhanced partnership will create new opportunities for Wright State students to participate in Air Force-conducted research.”

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

AFRL, based at Wright-Patterson, advances the science and technical research on which both the Air Force and Space Force depend.

The $1.78 million 3 Tesla MRI scanner at Wright State can help the Air Force explore high altitude and G-forces on the human brain, the university told this newspaper in May.

“The partnership between Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Wright State University has never been stronger,” said Col. Chris Meeker, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander at Wright-Patterson.

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

The machine will boost regional research infrastructure, Matthew Sherwood, director of Wright State’s Center of Neuroimaging and Neuro-Evaluation of Cognitive Technologies and a research professor in WSU’s Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Physiology, said earlier this year.

Some of the first evaluations and trial runs with the machine were slated to begin in the summer, Andy McKinley, a biomedical engineer and research lead in applied neuroscience for AFRL, told this newspaper.

Previously, Air Force researchers had been forced to rely on area hospital MRIs on nights and weekends, “a tougher logistical challenge,” McKinley said.

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“This is something we’ve been wanting for quite a number of years,” McKinley told the Dayton Daily News.

“The partnership between Wright State University and the Air Force Research Laboratory is a great example of how our public institutions can be instrumental in helping our military advance important research,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. “This partnership strengthens both institutions and makes Dayton an even more attractive region for leading-edge research.”

Wright State said the MRI scanner was funded through a Defense University Research Instrumentation program from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and a state of Ohio Action fund, boosted by Wright State’s work with the 711th Human Performance Wing, which is also based at Wright-Patterson and is part of AFRL.

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