A Mousetrap Leads to $2 Million Gift to Physics Department

Students study in a physics lab on the Michigan Tech campus. A $2 million dollar donation will establish a Quantum Physics Center in Fisher Hall.
Students study in a physics lab on the Michigan Tech campus. A $2 million dollar donation will establish a Quantum Physics Center in Fisher Hall.

Jacek Borysow, a professor in Michigan Technological University’s Department of Physics has a favorite saying: “When a mouse trap meets quantum mechanics, generous contributions to science often follow.”

His theory has just proven true. A two-million dollar donation to Michigan Tech’s Department of Physics will help establish The Elizabeth and Richard Henes Center for Quantum Phenomena on the Tech campus.

The center’s vision is to bring together the academic community to address problems that cannot be explained by means of classical physics.

“The center’s mission will be to provide national leadership in the investigation of processes linked together into the interdisciplinary theme of 'quantum world,’” says Physics Department Chair Ravi Pandey.

University President Glenn Mroz says Borysow’s “mouse trap” helped bring about funding for the new center.

Several years ago, Henes began tracking the teaching and research progress of Tech’s physics program, Mroz explains. After talking with Henes on one visit, Mroz returned a few months later with Pandey and Borysow in tow.

They were there to discuss the direction of the Physics Department and the faculty work that could expand the boundaries of quantum physics and span many disciplines on campus.

“I’ll never forget the meeting,” Mroz says. “Jacek pulled a simple mousetrap out of his pocket to demonstrate quantum concepts, making the nearly unimaginable simple.” Henes and his wife Liz started firing questions, Mroz recalls, and the conversation and their interest took off from there.

“It’s impossible to overstate the fact that given the great faculty members we have in Physics, this is a transformational gift in the right place at the right time,” the president adds.

The outcome of that visit was an initial gift of $700,000, designated to upgrade research facilities in Fisher Hall and to improve the overall infrastructure of the building that houses the physics research laboratories.

Borysow says the $2 million dollar gift to help establish the new center will accomplish much more.

"This latest generous gift from Richard Henes can transform the Physics Department at Michigan Tech into the place where scientific dreams are made and become reality," the physics professor says.

“I have had many brilliant ideas during my scientific career, however, only a handful of these ideas have ever seen the light of day. The rest remained only as dreams due to lack of financial support,” he adds.

“Henes's gift of $2 million can bring many of my and my colleagues' ideas out from the world of dreams into the real world. These dreams range from the desire to understand the fate of the universe to making use of quantum physics to improve a person’s health.”

Borysow will serve as the first director of The Elizabeth and Richard Henes Center for Quantum Phenomena. The formal process to establish the center, which will be located in Fisher Hall, is currently underway.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.