Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate your interest in learning more about the Bates Research and Engineering Center. The Bates campus is used for engineering and research activities undertaken in relation to worldwide programs in fundamental nuclear and particle physics. Bates is also home to specialized spaces and equipment that enable research in areas ranging from clean energy and climate modeling to human health. In all of our research and development activities, we take seriously our responsibilities to operate facilities such as Bates in a safe manner, consistent with state and federal regulations, and we take seriously our commitment to maintaining a safe working environment for employees and visitors. We are grateful to the Town of Middleton – our host community – and for the dedicated efforts of all those who collaborate with us to advance the research enterprise and ensure that our work is conducted safely and responsibly.

  -- Professor Boleslaw “Bolek” Wyslouch, director of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science and the Bates Research and Engineering Center

What is the Bates Research and Engineering Center?

Located on approximately 80 acres in Middleton, MA, the Bates Research and Engineering Center was established more than 50 years ago and is part of the MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS). The unique facilities at Bates enable research activities in nuclear and particle physics, serving LNS and other laboratories at MIT as well as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), private industry, and other universities around the world. 

Anchored by a large electron linear accelerator, the Bates facility was originally owned and operated collaboratively by MIT and the DOE. MIT took full ownership of the facility in 2005 and then began the process of reconfiguring the space so that it could be used for a number of projects, some involving other smaller accelerators. 

Today, the Bates campus is home to specialized spaces and equipment, including large experiment halls with cranes and three-foot-thick walls, a clean room, and a 1000-foot-long tunnel. With more than 100,000 square feet of office and laboratory space, its 11 buildings include one of MIT’s large capacity High Performance Computing Facilities. Undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers work here, as do approximately 28 full- and part-time on-site staff. Over time, experiments and projects at Bates have advanced in parallel with evolving research on MIT’s Cambridge campus. Current activities focus on design and construction of equipment for nuclear and particle physics experiments performed elsewhere, clean energy, and human health. 

Components of a linear accelerator remain on site. The facility is operational for nuclear physics research and development projects.

Learn more.

Who is in charge of Bates? What is the leadership structure?

Professor Boleslaw (Bolek) Wyslouch, director of MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS), is responsible for the Bates Research and Engineering Center operation. Professor Wyslouch is one of the founders and leaders of the heavy ion program in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Before joining CMS, Professor Wyslouch conducted multiple high-energy and nuclear experiments at CERN and at the Brookhaven National Laboratory RHIC facility.  

James Kelsey is the Associate Director of Bates. He joined the MIT Bates staff in 1987 and previously served as the Engineering Group leader before becoming the Operations Manager and a Principal Research Engineer. Mr. Kelsey manages the daily operations, including budgets, finances, and proposal development, and he serves as the lab’s safety officer. 

All activities of LNS, including the Bates Research and Engineering Center, report to the MIT School of Science, overseen by Dean Michael Sipser.

What activities take place at Bates?

Specialized innovation at Bates continues today. Although the original linear accelerator is not in use, engineers are designing, prototyping, and building equipment used by other national and international laboratories for cutting-edge nuclear and particle physics experiments. Bates staff also collaborate with industry partners to develop specialized technical equipment, especially in medical physics (cancer treatment) and imaging. Projects have included the creation of particle tracking chambers, large magnets, electron beam sources, and proton therapy devices that can be used to irradiate diseased tissue. 

At the High Performance Research Computing Facility (HPRCF), research teams perform complex simulations, modeling activities, and analysis of experimental data that require considerable computing power. Research topics have ranged from the Higgs boson, quark-gluon plasma, and gravitational waves to climate modeling and ship hull design. 

Currently, the Bates campus also supports MIT-based research investigations into wind energy, solar energy, and biofuel. 

I read that work at Bates involves radioactive material. What kind of regulatory or other oversight is there for these activities? 

All work conducted at the Bates campus involving the use of radiation sources is authorized through the official licenses and registrations granted to MIT by federal and state regulatory authorities and is subject to regulatory and institutional oversight. In addition to regular inspections, unannounced federal and state regulatory inspections occur routinely. 

MIT’s Committee on Radiation Protection (RPC), a standing committee appointed by the President and reporting to the Vice President for Research, is responsible for establishing, maintaining, and advancing a radiation protection program at the Institute and its off-campus sites, including Bates. The RPC reviews and approves all uses of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation sources through a system of authorization/registration programs, risk assessments, and monitoring programs managed by MIT’s Radiation Protection Program (RPP). 

The RPP is responsible for Institute compliance with radiation protection regulations and standards upheld by local, state, and federal agencies. Also, the RPP manages the conditions of approval noted in the Institute’s government-issued licenses and registrations. The RPP has detection equipment that can monitor the potential exposures from the sources of radiation-producing materials or machines. The main goal of the RPP is to provide a safe working area for radiation workers and the general public while allowing creative, breakthrough research to continue in compliance with all applicable regulations. Within these parameters, the RPP works with students, staff, and faculty to facilitate research projects using radiation sources of all types.

The rules and regulations established by the following agencies govern MIT’s use of radioactive sources and radiation-producing equipment sources (ionizing/non-ionizing) and subject the Institute to periodic unannounced compliance inspections:

  • US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Radiation Control Program (MRCP)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • International Air Transport Authority (IATA)
  • Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) 
  • Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 

The following licenses and registrations are maintained for MIT by the RPC/RPP:

  License Expiration Date Purpose
60-0094 MADH License March 31, 2029 Broad Scope License – covers all uses of radioactive material on the Cambridge, Bates, and Lincoln Lab campuses
SNM-986 NRC License December 14, 2027 Special Nuclear Material use including Bates campus
RCN: 05029 (MIT Campus) MADPH Registration December 31, 2020 35 Analytical Radiation Producing Devices 
RCN:11438 (Accelerator) MADPH Registration December 31, 2020 12 Accelerators including Cambridge and Bates campuses


Have there ever been any negative inspections or citations during an inspection? If so, what was done in response? 

The Bates campus has an exemplary record with respect to radiation worker safety and compliance with federal/state regulations. During the past two decades, there have been four federal inspections and sixteen state inspections of MIT’s use of radiation sources and machines that included use at the Bates campus. Each of these inspections resulted in a finding of “no items of noncompliance found as a result of this inspection.”

How is Bates engaged with the Town of Middleton? 

MIT and the leadership at Bates have enjoyed a strong collaborative relationship with Middleton and surrounding towns. Interactions with our local communities have included:

  • Tours for local middle and high school groups
  • Steady engagement as a customer for local utilities
  • Annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to Middleton – the lab’s host community 
  • Working cooperatively with Middleton town boards and utilities regarding the installation of a wind turbine for energy research
  • Participating in the Community Solar project established by Middleton Light and Power Department (MELD)
  • Engagement through the MIT Scholarship fund ($20,000 annually) in support of college-bound graduates of the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School

I’m a resident of Middleton and I have more questions. Who do I contact? 

Contact the MIT Office of Government and Community Relations.