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KNOXVILLE — The president of the University of Tennessee will visit the White House and members of Congress on Wednesday to urge higher levels of federal support for university-based basic research in science and technology.

Dr. J. Wade Gilley is one of a select group of presidents of major universities, including MIT, Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and North Carolina, who will travel to Washington to advance the cause of research. He also will take part in a Science Day luncheon honoring members of Congress for their past support.

“Today’s strong economy is the product of research that was going on in university labs 20 years ago,” Gilley said. “Likewise, tomorrow’s new economy will rest upon the ability of researchers to discover ways to improve the lives of people everywhere.

“To take these developments from the scientist’s bench and inject them into our economic life, however, research universities must receive strong federal support.”

Accompanying Gilley are two of UT’s top young researchers — Dr. Karen Johnson, associate professor of preventative medicine at the Health Science Center in Memphis, and Dr. David Keffer, assistant professor of chemical engineering in Knoxville. Both will meet with members of Congress who have responsibilities for science funding.

The Science Day events are sponsored by the Science Coalition, an affiliation of more than 60 major research universities and scientific organizations that seek to foster federal support for university-based research.

UT ranked 36th in a recent list of the top 50 research universities in the United States, according to Technology Report magazine.

Gilley, who is concluding his first year as president at Tennessee, has earmarked enhanced research capability as a top priority for the university. UT and Battelle Memorial Institute recently were selected to manage the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.