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NSF invests in science and engineering infrastructure across the nation

Press Release From: National Science Foundation
Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded four jurisdictions with grants ranging from $6 million to $20 million through its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program for the production of world-class research and scientific resources.

The Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 cooperative agreements will bolster science and engineering academic research infrastructure on the Island of Guam and in three states: Arkansas, Louisiana and West Virginia. Each award will support fundamental research, education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as workforce development in areas relevant to the jurisdictions' economic and other vital interests.

"The cutting edge research accomplishments that will emerge from these jurisdiction-wide projects will stimulate collaborations, innovations, and local economies," said Denise Barnes, head of NSF's EPSCoR program. "Additionally, students who participate in these projects will have unique opportunities to explore career pathways in science and engineering."

Each award is organized into research themes that are aligned with jurisdictional science and technology plans. An overarching theme across the four awards is to develop the scientific foundation and workforce capacity for transitioning towards a knowledge-based economy. The awards also focus on finding ways to apply information science and data analytics.

Arkansas and Louisiana are developing innovative approaches for producing technologically relevant materials that can advance localized commercialization and manufacturing economies. Water resource sustainability is a central theme for two jurisdictions--West Virginia, which will focus on inland freshwater systems, and Guam, which will focus on coastal ecosystems. West Virginia is also developing gravitational wave astrophysics research infrastructure.

EPSCoR projects focus on fostering success and productivity among early-career scientists and engineers. Each award highlights the importance and benefits of ensuring inclusion of diverse populations through dedicated programs tailored to engage underrepresented minorities.

The names of the institutions managing the awards, the names of the principal investigators overseeing the research, and a summary of each award are provided below.

ARKANSAS--Arkansas Economic Development Commission (Gail McClure)

Ten Arkansas institutions of higher education are collaborating on a state-wide Center for Advanced Surface Engineering (CASE) to enable discovery, design, fabrication, and testing of multi-functional surfaces. The CASE research and educational activities encompass material-science needs in agriculture, medicine, and industry. Applications include manufacturing, food packaging, forestry, aerospace, defense, and energy systems. CASE researchers will develop novel lubrication materials to improve machinery efficiencies and performance for advanced manufacturing. Other planned research outcomes include permeable food packing materials that can be fine-tuned for specific applications and selective filtration materials that can be used to mitigate product contamination. The project will strengthen the STEM workforce using a variety of innovative approaches to train students, teachers, researchers, and practitioners in surface science, material fabrication, and surface characterization techniques. It also emphasizes the development of expertise in technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing.

GUAM--University of Guam (Terry Donaldson)

The University of Guam will evaluate how marine ecosystems and fragile coral reefs respond and adapt to environmental and climate stressors. The island of Guam (3,800 miles from Hawaii and 6,000 miles from the U.S. mainland) will function as a living laboratory to investigate the sustainability of marine coastal environments under changing sea levels, sea-surface temperatures, and water quality conditions in the Western Pacific. Genomic and transcriptomic data on marine organisms and biological samples will be catalogued and curated in a biorepository that will serve as a resource for comparing coral ecosystems from different parts of the world. The biorepository will also be used to track changes that occur in Micronesia and develop insights into factors that affect ecosystem resiliency. The project will deploy sensor network in Pago Bay to collect marine environmental and water quality data. It will also provide enhanced Internet connectivity and cyberinfrastructure improvements. The project's STEM education, workforce development, and outreach activities will incorporate scientific discoveries into regional teaching programs, Citizen Science, and graduate education.

LOUISIANA--Louisiana Board of Regents (Michael Khonsari)

The Consortium for Innovation in Manufacturing and Materials (CIMM) will coordinate advanced manufacturing research, education, and workforce development across the state of Louisiana. The research team will investigate metallic liquids, alloys, surface coatings, and microstructures in the context of metal-forming processes and powder synthesis. Experimental results and simulation tools will be applied to analyze specifications and performance of engineered products. Results from this interdisciplinary research effort will foster the design and fabrication of new structures, devices, and systems. The project team will also develop feature replication technologies for producing laser 3-D printed metal structures. CIMM will promote faculty training, curriculum reform, and advancement of project-based active learning for students at two- and four-year academic institutions. CIMM activities will provide opportunities to innovate manufacturing approaches through partnerships with industries.

WEST VIRGINIA- West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Jan Taylor)

The West Virginia EPSCoR Track-1 project will support basic and applied research in water resources and gravitational wave astrophysics. The water resources research, coordinated through the Appalachian Freshwater Initiative (AFI), will investigate water supplies that are impacted by mining activities, wastewater discharges, or agricultural runoff. The AFI will examine water quality stressors under a range of watershed management and climate change scenarios. Gravitational wave research will focus on early universe cosmology and galaxies. The research team will also explore relativity, gravity, and compact objects in the local universe. The tools and models developed through this project will provide valuable inputs towards solving astrophysics challenges related to low-frequency gravitational waves and electromagnetic models. The project will also bolster the STEM workforce by providing specialized training in data mining, water quality monitoring, signal processing, and electronics design techniques. This project will build and strengthen international linkages and partnerships through collaborative research projects.

About EPSCoR

EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill the foundation's mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. Twenty-five states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam are currently eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding. Through this program, NSF establishes regional partnerships with government, higher education, and industry that effect lasting improvements in a state's or territory's research infrastructure and research and development capacity, and hence, its academic competitiveness.

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