The James R. Macdonald Laboratory was originally established in 1967 as the Nuclear Science Laboratory in the physics department at Kansas State University. The laboratory was renamed in 1980 in honor of James R. Macdonald who had been a pioneer in establishing the laboratory as an atomic physics center. It is an atomic, molecular and optical physics research facility funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Workers at the James R. Macdonald Laboratory perform basic research on matter exposed to high transient electric and magnetic fields. Laboratory workers study the basic physics and use the results to formulate theoretical descriptions of how matter behaves under extreme conditions. The laboratory includes the Tandem Van de Graaff accelerator facility; EBIS and ECR, two highly charged ion sources; LINAC, an "afterburner" accelerator; and the Kansas Light Source, a high-powered short-pulse laser.
The nationally recognized research facility provides part of the foundation for the future design of energy sources, such as nuclear fusion. The laboratory employees more than 50 people and helps to prepare K-State students for highly technical jobs.