In the grand scheme of American colleges and universities, the University of New Hampshire might appear a bit on the small side. But don't let the looks of the Durham campus (postcard-pretty on a sunny January day) deceive. There is a broad and deep array of activity going on at UNH.
Head football coach Sean McDonnell, who has just declined an offer from rival University of Massachusetts, is planning a new season that will feature night games for the Wildcats, thus freeing up space for statewide high school championship games. The latter will give high school footballers the same thrills that their basketball cousins have long had playing in the Lundholm Gym.
Up at Kingsbury Hall, mathematics instructor "Tom" Zhang is busy packing his bags for Princeton for a three-month stint in the program where Albert Einstein used to put chalk to blackboard. Einstein would have been impressed with the unassuming Chinese native whose work on a math problem known as the Twin Prime Conjecture made international news last year.
Walk through any of the modern science and engineering buildings on campus and you will be forgiven if you think you are at a United Nations general assembly meeting. The names on the office doors are from around the globe.
Researchers and grad students from Scotland to Iran, and Americans from Chapel Hill, Boston University, and the West Coast have all been drawn to UNH for a variety of opportunities of which I was but dimly aware. But some 40 members of an industry consortium who help fund the research, and benefit from it, are keenly cognizant of UNH these days.
A visit last week left my head spinning. I wasn't sure if it was from the 3-D touch screen that a CCOM (Coastal and Ocean Mapping) researcher had developed to better chart and graph undersea mysteries (something called bathymetry is involved); or if it was meeting up with the folks who have, once again, put UNH research into outer space.
The latter group includes Prof. Harlan Spence and grad student Alex Crew. They have been working with the National Science Foundation and showed me the Kindle-sized box in which their even smaller device is currently in orbit collecting daily data on radioactive microbursts. Work like this may one day help our modern world cope with cosmically-caused blackouts and the like.
One day even sooner, parents and kids who are drawn to a high school football championship at Cowell Stadium will want to venture up the road to check out the state university. It is an amazing place. Now all President Mark Huddleston has to do is figure out how to stop the steep cost curve, and avoid the drafty windows in T-Hall.
Write to Joe McQuaid at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @deucecrew.