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KNOXVILLE — U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp praised the University of Tennessee Tuesday for focusing on improving its research standing and advised a gathering of researchers to keep the state Legislature abreast of scientific and technological progress.

Wamp spoke to UT’s Strategic Research Forum, a meeting of federal officials, UT faculty and community representatives, that UT President J. Wade Gilley has charged with identifying major research goals for the university.

“UT is going in a much-needed direction,” said Wamp, who represents the state’s third congressional district. Gilley has made a priority of putting UT among the top 25 public research universities.

With the end of the Cold War, Wamp said the nation’s goals have drifted away from national security and are not so clearly identified. He said that research efforts are gravitating toward the health sciences.

Representatives of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy briefed the forum on research initiatives their agencies were likely to fund in the near future.

Gilley stressed the importance of research to the university.

“There is a need for the university to be competitive,” Gilley said. “From any perspective, research is an integral part of being competitive in engineering, agriculture or medicine.

“We want to be competitive as a university but, more importantly, so that the state of Tennessee can be competitive with the new economic development that’s coming.”

Wamp said that making UT a better research university would involve the state government, as well as federal agencies.

“The Legislature is a constant,” Wamp said. “You’ve got to bring the Legislature along on your vision.”

The forum coincided with the announcement of UT Institute of Agriculture’s successful cloning of a Jersey cow, only the third bovine cloning in the United States and the first to use nonpatented cell-culture techniques. Drs. Lannett Edwards and Neal Schrick, who accomplished the cloning, announced the event at a news conference Monday.

Wamp praised the husband-wife team, saying that working toward specific goals is crucial to a university’s research success.

“(Edwards and Schrick) came to work every day knowing exactly what they wanted to accomplish,” Wamp said. “Today we’ll get to see exactly what they did accomplish.”