Paulos named director of Physical Sciences Laboratory

September 6, 2016 By Natasha Kassulke
Photo: PSL employee operating laser

The Physical Sciences Laboratory includes state-of-the-art machinery and an electronics shop, and is a research and development lab that provides a wide range of services including consulting, design, fabrication and calibration in scientific instrumentation. Photo: Jeff Miller

With customers as diverse as the UW–Madison Center for Limnology and the Wisconsin Energy Institute, the UW–Madison Physical Sciences Laboratory performs a critical role for researchers near and far. Its success rests on a staff of problem-solvers who have the tools and talent to tackle projects large and small.

Whether you need a more rugged boat-mounted water testing rig made, or a 20-year-old spectrometer or circuit board upgraded, the Physical Sciences Lab delivers with expertise and teamwork. Many of the services that the PSL provides are customized for each given project or unique situation.

Photo: Bob Paulos

Bob Paulos was associate director for the IceCube program before being named director of the PSL.

Overseeing these diverse projects is Bob Paulos, recently named the lab’s director. Paulos had been serving as interim director since July 2014.

As director of the Physical Sciences Laboratory, Paulos reports to the vice chancellor for research and graduate education.

“The PSL has partnered with UW researchers and provided advanced technology services to them since 1967, but over the years has also expanded its client base to include other public institutions, private industry and even customers who are overseas,” says Vice Chancellor Marsha Mailick.

The PSL includes state-of-the-art machinery and an electronics shop, and is a research and development laboratory that provides a wide range of services including consulting, design, fabrication and calibration in scientific instrumentation. PSL staff are highly trained in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics.

“PSL has been successful on a wide range of projects over nearly 50 years,” Paulos says. “The number one reason for this success is the quality and dedication of its staff. Like any successful university center or department, in the end, good people who care about the success of their customers are what makes a difference.

“Organizationally, I think the fact that we have a large shop located about 100 feet from where our engineers sit really helps us a great deal. If we are building instrumentation for someone and a problem comes up, the engineer that designed it can easily get together with the shop personnel who are building that instrumentation to quickly and effectively solve a problem.”

In fact, the lab has evolved to where it is able to facilitate large-scale design, engineering and fabrication projects such as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

“Bob brings strong technical leadership to the position of PSL director with his background as associate director for the IceCube program, where he has been responsible for managing across the broad areas of engineering, implementation project support, and coordination,” says Mailick. “As project manager for the IceCube project at its inception, Bob led the development of the management, organization and budgetary plans submitted in the original proposal to the National Science Foundation in 1999.”

Whether you need a more rugged boat-mounted water testing rig made, or a 20-year-old spectrometer or circuit board upgraded, the Physical Sciences Lab delivers with expertise and teamwork.

“The future here at PSL is very bright,” Paulos says. “We are involved in some very interesting and important projects sponsored by the Department of Energy in the areas of neutrino physics and the search for dark matter. We also continue to have a strong relationship with WIPAC (the former IceCube Research Center) and MST (Physics Department), and we are working with the Limnology Department on a UW2020 project that will allow researchers there to more efficiently collect lakes data.

“Along with these projects, we continue to get new inquiries from campus investigators every week. So with all of this going on it’s hard not to be excited about the future here.”

“My time as interim director allowed me to get to know the staff here very well and this also makes me enthusiastic about the job,” Paulos adds. “We have a very talented and dedicated group here that I am fortunate to work with.”

About 40 people are employed by the PSL, including student employees.

The main facility is located off-campus near Stoughton, but PSL also has a UW–Madison campus office at 1225 W. Dayton St., where visitors are encouraged to bring project ideas or issues related to ongoing projects.