NSF announces six new Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials

In an ongoing effort to enhance diversity in the materials research field, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced awards for six new Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREMs).

The partnerships are designed to link minority-serving institutions with centers, groups or facilities already being funded by NSF's Division of Materials Research. Each one represents a formal, long-term collaboration that brings together researchers with diverse expertise to address complex, interdisciplinary challenges in materials research and education.

The six new PREMs, listed below, will have a total funding of $15.4 million over 5 years, and will complement four existing PREMs established in 2004. They will focus their research on areas such as nanobiotechnology, electronics, spintronics, polymers and medicine. They will target their education programs at work-force development, pre-college training, and advancing the public understanding of science and engineering.

2006 PREM Awards

California State University, Northridge (partnered with the Princeton University MRSEC): $2.05 million Director: Nicholas Kioussis

This PREM is a partnership between the multidisciplinary W. M. Keck Computational Materials Theory Center at California State University Northridge, a Hispanic-serving institution, and the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, the NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Princeton University. The research emphasis will be on the development of physical models, numerical algorithms and robust simulation techniques for the study of: (1) mechanical properties of metallic systems; (2) charge and spin transport in 2-dimensional interacting electron systems; and (3) spin transport in magnetic tunnel junctions.

The PREMs educational and research efforts will focus on: (1) fostering multidisciplinary and innovative research in computational materials science; (2) educating and training students in cutting-edge computational materials science; (3) stimulating and developing strong industry-university-national laboratory partnerships; and (4) increasing recruitment, retention, and degree attainment by members of groups underrepresented in materials research.

Jackson State University (partnered with the University of California, Santa Barbara MRSEC): $2.75 million Director: Paresh Ray

This partnership will focus on the development and application of new materials--specifically, 1) organic semiconductors based on small molecules or conjugated polymers which have potential applications ranging from electronic circuitry to flexible displays, and from solar cells to biological and chemical sensors; and 2) optical nanosystems that use laser-induced fluorescence techniques to detect DNA damage, RNA interaction and modification of nucleic acids. The proposed research is of fundamental scientific interest as well as a crucial component in the development of state-of-the-art devices and sensors.

This PREM will also focus on the education, training and mentoring of minority students and postdoctoral fellows through formal courses, workshops and laboratory rotations. In particular, it will develop hands-on undergraduate and graduate courses to prepare minority students careers as scientists; establish an undergraduate Materials Science Interns program, and create a 2-year, materials-focused master's program at JSU with bridges to the UCSB doctoral programs in materials.

Norfolk State University (partnered with the Cornell University MRSEC): $2.8 million Director: Mikhail Noginov

This PREM, the Partnership for Photonic Metamaterials, will include investigators from the Center for Materials Research at Norfolk State University; the Center for Materials Research at Cornell University; and both the Birck Nanotechnology Center and the Network for Computational Nanotechnology at Purdue University. Its central research theme will be the mutual enhancement of (1) optical gain and other optical responses in dielectric media and (2) surface plasmons in metallic particles and aggregates.

The PREM's education program will seek to establish a complete academic pipeline for underrepresented minority groups, starting with efforts to attract high-school students into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Then, through specially developed educational materials, class work, research training, mentoring and exchange programs within the partnership, the pipeline will carry the students through to become Ph.D. candidates for careers in materials science in academia, industry, and government.

Howard University (partnered with the Johns Hopkins University MRSEC): $2.75 million Director: Joshua Halpern

This PREM joins Howard University, the Johns Hopkins University MRSEC, and Prince Georges Community College. The partnership's research will focus on nanowire growth and phenomenology in three areas: (1) transport properties in bismuth nanowires; (2) transport properties in indium nitride nanowires; and (3) fabrication of dipolar nitride nanowires for nonlinear optical elements.

The partnership will produce new courses and laboratory modules, as well as materials-centered, guided-inquiry software suited to college and high-school general chemistry and general physics classes. Broad dissemination of the software will inform students about the impact materials have on their lives and attract them to materials related careers.

Tuskegee University (partnered with the Cornell University MRSEC): $2.55 million Director: Shaik Jeelani

In this PREM, the Center for Advanced Materials at Tuskegee University and the Cornell Center for Materials Research, will jointly investigate the chemical interactions between nanoparticles and polymers, as well as the relationship between these nanoscale interactions and the mechanical properties of nanocomposite materials. They will also use this understanding to develop a new generation of nanocomposite structural materials that are amenable to conventional processing methods--one example being high-performance textiles with improved strength and durability.

The partners will share educational materials, courses and best practices through a combination of distance learning, teleconferencing and cross-campus visits. Through a number of outreach programs, the partners will introduce high-school and community-college students to materials research and engineering, and will inform them of career opportunities in the field.

University of New Mexico (partnered with the Harvard University MRSEC): $2.5 million Director: Gabriel Lopez

This PREM links the University of New Mexico (UNM), the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) with the Harvard University MRSEC. This project will focus on a promising, multidisciplinary area of materials technology: biomaterials, which are synthetic and natural, solid and sometimes liquid materials, used in medical devices or in contact with biological systems. The subprojects will be focused on developing new materials technologies for three areas of medicine that are especially problematic in minority populations: infectious diseases (inexpensive detection and diagnosis); cardiovascular diseases (tissue engineering approaches to small diameter vascular grafts and heart valves); and cancer (cost effective, individualized, genomic sequencing for diagnosis and prognosis).

This project will have an immediate impact on the education of minority students by partnering APS, an urban school district with a large minority population, SIPI, a tribal college with an emphasis in science, technology, engineering and math education, UNM, a Hispanic serving research university, and Harvard University.

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