Rice opens the Nuclear Research Laboratory, the country's 1st college-based, fully equipped lab devoted to nuclear experimentation. Designed by George F. Pierce Jr. and Abel Pierce, the lab focuses research around the solenoidal tracker (STAR) at Brookhaven National Laboratory's relativistic heavy ion collider, a particle accelerator for nuclear physics resarch.
The striking vertical tower houses the 6 million-volt potential-drop Van de Graaff accelerator, which greatly enhances the research capabilities and reputation of Rice's physics program. In 1961, Rice acquires a second, more powerful horizontal accelerator, but by 1972 these instruments are outmodeled, and Rice donates them to institutions in Mexico City and Yugoslavia in the 1980s.
In 1963 Rice renames the lab the Bonner Nuclear Laboratory to honor Professor Tom Bonner '32. For 3 decades the building houses nuclear and high-energy physicists.