MATHEMATICAL AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES $881,160,000
The FY 2001 Budget Request for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Activity is $881.16 million, an increase of $123.56 million, or 16.3 percent, over the FY 2000 Current Plan of $757.60 million.
(Millions of Dollars)
The Mathematical and Physical Sciences Activity (MPS) supports a strong and diverse portfolio of research and education in astronomical sciences, chemistry, materials research, mathematical sciences and physics. The purpose of this work is threefold: to deepen our understanding of the physical universe; to use this understanding in service to society; and to prepare the next generation of scientists who are essential for continued progress. The mathematical and physical sciences underpin many other scientific endeavors and serve as the training ground for at least half of all doctoral scientists now employed in U.S. industry. The MPS Activity supports areas of inquiry that are critical for long-term U.S. economic strength and security, providing a substantial portion of federal funding for fundamental research at academic institutions in these areas, and in some subfields provides for most of the federal investment.
The new opportunities are many. Research at the atomic level will result in a period of discovery that could be termed a "molecular revolution." The study of complex chemical and physical systems offers critical insights into climate change and other natural phenomena. Biological systems can be understood and controlled via powerful mathematical and physical techniques, such as the creation of algorithms critical for drug design and for the development of biopolymers, gels, and other biomolecular materials. New tools critical to scientific progress - from advanced magnets, to novel sensors, to quantum computers, to more powerful telescopes - are being developed and refined, and will make possible the understanding of physical phenomena at a much more profound level. Essential to achieving these goals is the development of new mathematical tools and algorithms for modeling and simulation of physical and biological phenomena.
MPS places a high priority on multidisciplinary work and on partnerships. The Multidisciplinary Activities Subactivity is designed to catalyze efforts in emerging areas of research and education at disciplinary boundaries. By fostering closer connections with other federal agencies, state governments and industry, MPS investigators can enhance the impact of their efforts and increase the return on NSF investments.
International partnerships are critical to progress, both intellectually and financially, especially in the areas of astronomy, physics, and materials research, all of which require the use of large facilities. An example is the strong international cooperation that the Astronomy Subactivity has generated in support of the Gemini Observatories. Another is the collaboration with the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science and with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) that the Physics Subactivity has pursued toward the development of detectors for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
World leadership in science is a critical objective for the Foundation. Receipt of Nobel Prizes by MPS-supported physical scientists and Fields Medals by MPS-supported mathematical scientists is a strong indicator of the long-term importance of MPS research. The 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Ahmed H. Zewail of the California Institute of Technology for his studies of the transition states of fundamental chemical reactions using ultrashort laser flashes, on the time-scale in which the reactions occur (femtosecond spectroscopy). Zewail's work shows that it is possible with rapid laser techniques to see how atoms in a molecule move during a chemical reaction. Professor Zewail's contributions have brought about a revolution in chemistry and adjacent sciences, allowing us to understand and predict important reactions. Professor Zewail's work has been supported by MPS for twenty years.
People are NSF's most important product. At NSF, placing research and learning hand in hand is our highest priority, and the people involved in our projects represent both the focus of our investments and the most important products of them. Across its programs, MPS provides support for approximately 21,300 people, including teachers, students, researchers, post-doctorates, and trainees. Support for programs specifically addressing NSF's Strategic Goal of "People -- A diverse, internationally competitive and globally-engaged workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens" totals more than $106 million in FY 2001, an increase of 19.0 percent over FY 2000. Moreover, about 45 percent of the funding for research grants -- an amount approaching $260.0 million in FY 2001-- provides support for researchers and students, including almost 12,400 post-doctorates, trainees, and graduate and undergraduate students.
In FY 2001, MPS will support research and education efforts related to broad, Foundation-wide initiatives in Information Technology Research, Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and 21 st Century Workforce.
Information Technology Research (ITR)
MPS contributes very heavily in all of its Subactivities to the national effort in large-scale computational science. This work has brought dramatically improved understanding of fundamental scientific phenomena in astronomy, chemistry, physics, and materials research. The computational sciences have also provided increasingly sophisticated techniques for gathering, manipulating, storing and analyzing experimental data. MPS-supported research may even bring about entirely new ways of computing, for example, quantum computing, by which the rules of quantum mechanics may be exploited to expand enormously our ability to store and process information. In addition, the mathematical sciences make essential contributions to fundamentals of computer science itself, as well as providing the calculational algorithms, imaging methods, and cryptographic techniques needed across an enormous spectrum of activity in science, engineering, national defense, and business. The ITR initiative will benefit substantially from the contributions of work supported by MPS.
MPS support for the NSF initiative in Information Technology Research (ITR) will total $45.10 million in FY 2001. This investment will focus on specific thrusts that include:
These fundamental computational challenges in MPS have and will continue to push the state-of-the-art of software and hardware developments in many areas of information technology. Expanding these capabilities will require additional investment in:
Nanoscale Science and Engineering
In FY 2001, the MPS request includes $111.41 million for nanoscale science and engineering, an increase of $50.41 million over the FY 2000 Current Plan. This increase includes $10.0 million for activities in the Quantum Realm - where the laws of quantum mechanics play a decisive role.
MPS has been a leader in fostering the exciting emergence of nanoscale science and engineering over many years. MPS grantees have contributed significantly to many of the exciting advances made over the past year, which illustrate both the scientific fascination and the technological potential of nanoscale phenomena and structures. Examples include: the demonstration of controlled molecular switching by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles and Hewlett Packard Corporation; the development of 'molecular tweezers' by researchers at Harvard University, and 'optical tweezers' for molecular control by researchers at AT&T, Harvard University, and Stanford University; and advances made by a research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara in demonstrating quantum coherence in spin-electronic magnetic materials.
In FY 2001, MPS will play a major role in the NSF's contribution to the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative in the following areas: Nanoscale Structures and Quantum Control; Multi-scale, Multi-phenomena Modeling and Simulation at the Nanoscale; and Nanostructures in the Environment. MPS is also expected to contribute in the areas of Biosystems at the Nanoscale and Device and System Architecture. An integral component of this initiative includes the preparation and training of the future workforce in this critical field.
21 st Century Workforce
MPS support will increase $300,000, for a total of $3.30 million in FY 2001 for this initiative. This includes continued support for the NSF-wide program for Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education; for the Interagency Education Research Initiative program, a collaborative program with the Department of Education; and the Distinguished Teaching Scholars program.
MPS's support for ongoing and new activities contributes to NSF efforts to achieve its strategic goals, as well as to the administration and management activities necessary to achieve those goals. MPS's investment in NSF's strategic goals is as follows:
(Millions of Dollars)
MPS supports research activities across a very broad spectrum - from studies of the origin of the universe to investigations of the inner structure of matter, from understanding the dynamic nature of chemical reactions in real time to the design, from fundamental principles of materials with new properties and from the proof of centuries old mathematical theorems to the development of new and efficient computational techniques. Support for discovery at and across the frontier of science and engineering and connections to its use in the service of society account for about two-thirds of the funding in the MPS Activity. Awards include support of single investigators, centers or groups of investigators, with the particular mode of support chosen to meet the needs of the research.
Funding for fundamental research will increase in FY 2001 by $106.04 million, to a total of $578.63 million. Interdisciplinary research is becoming an increasingly important aspect of progress in all of the sciences. In FY 2001, funding will focus on the following areas characterizing a large portion of the MPS portfolio:
In FY 2001, MPS will continue to implement efforts to address the Foundation-wide concern about grant sizes by increasing the average size and duration of awards. MPS will also continue to pay attention to the percentage of competitive research grants for new investigators.
MPS also supports a number of centers:
(Millions of Dollars)
1 The reduction of support for STCs reflects the planned phase-out of the second class in FY 2000 and FY 2001.
Center-based research brings together scientists from diverse disciplines to work on complex problems, often in partnerships with other academic institutions, national laboratories, and industry. Centers are strongly committed to the integration of research and education, at levels from pre-college to postdoctoral, and they maintain sophisticated experimental facilities generally accessible to a broad range of users.
MPS currently supports three Science and Technology Centers (STC), 28 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC); four Chemistry Centers; and three Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes (MSRI). The research activities of the STCs include electronic materials, ultrafast optical science, and advanced display materials. In the MRSECs, researchers from many disciplines including engineering, biology and the mathematical and physical sciences address fundamental problems of intellectual and technological importance encompassing a wide range of materials and phenomena. The Chemistry Centers and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes address critical and emerging themes focused in these fundamental areas.
Interdisciplinary teams at a number of MRSECs and STCs are working in close partnership with teachers and educators to bring materials science alive for pre-college students in a variety of programs. For example, the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces (a MRSEC at SUNY Stony Brook) hosts an open house each year at Queens College, a participating institution in the Center. The event aims to pique students' curiosity about careers in science and engineering. This year nearly 400 high school students and their teachers engaged in a one-day research experience on modern polymer science and technology. Also this year, seven high school students sponsored by the Garcia Center are among the national semifinalists for the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition. Overall, the MRSECs supported K-12 science and engineering outreach activities that reached more than 300 teachers and 11,000 students in FY 1999. In addition, the Materials World Modules program developed with NSF support through the MRSEC at Northwestern University has been adopted by more than 15 school districts across the country and now reaches about 100,000 pre-college students and their teachers.
In FY 2001, support for centers will include:
The preparation of a diverse, broadly trained, internationally capable workforce for the 21 st century is a primary focus for MPS activities. This workforce will be responsible for bringing forth the ideas and discoveries that expand the frontiers of understanding and for developing and using new tools that enable discovery and learning in the next millennium. To accomplish this and to increase the understanding of science by the nation's citizens, MPS will increase its FY 2001 investment in People by $16.91 million, to a total of $106.03 million, or 19.0 percent. These investments will support innovations in education and training from K-12 through the postdoctoral and senior levels. Funding identified in the table below includes only dedicated education and training activities and excludes the much more extensive education and training activities supported through research awards and those taking place at centers and facilities.
MPS activities play a key role in integrating science and education at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and in helping people of all ages experience the thrill of "discovering science." For example, nearly 200 REU Sites are supported by MPS which expose almost 2,000 undergraduate students to the excitement of discovery at the frontiers of mathematics and science. In addition to supporting REU sites, MPS also sponsors many outreach programs at its centers and facilities that help bring the excitement of current scientific discovery to the public.
(Millions of Dollars)
The FY 2001 increase for People in MPS totals $16.91 million:
Today we are in an era of exploding scientific opportunity enabled by numerous revolutions in our ability to create new tools for science. These devices have allowed a stunning view into nature that has captured the imagination of the world - from the far reaches of the universe and the beginnings of time to the fundamental makeup of matter and the workings of life. As a result, these new tools are spread across the breadth of science and engineering. While instruments and their supporting infrastructure are becoming more costly and complex, the scientific problems we face today involve phenomena at or beyond the limits of our measurement capabilities. These problems can only be studied and solved with new generations of powerful tools.
Continued advances and leadership in astronomy, physics, and many areas of materials science depend critically on the availability of state-of-the-art user facilities to enable research and education at the cutting edge of science for large communities of university faculty and students. This requires investments for ongoing operations, maintenance, and periodic upgrades to the facilities as well as to ancillary instrumentation that may be needed to provide continued forefront research opportunities to users.
Research and development (R&D) towards new capabilities at existing facilities, and for new facilities to meet the needs of the MPS disciplines is carried out with support provided through basic disciplinary research. Activities include: R&D towards the next generation LIGO detectors, future accelerators at the energy frontier, enhanced neutron scattering capabilities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), high magnetic field capabilities at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL), and new capabilities at the national astronomy centers. In addition, MPS, jointly with the Department of Energy, manages the U.S. Large Hadron Collider (LHC) detector construction project. For additional information on the LHC, see the Major Research Equipment Account.
MPS investments in Tools include:
(Millions of Dollars)
In FY 2001, facilities supported through Tools includes the following:
Administration and Management
Administration and Management provides for administrative activities necessary to enable NSF to achieve its strategic goals. This includes the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments, contractors performing administrative functions and, in FY 2001, travel by staff in the program offices.
NSF has previously organized its budget presentation around four key program functions - Research Project Support, Research Facilities, Education and Training, and Administration and Management. In order to link the FY 2001 Budget Request to the NSF Strategic Plan, we have organized the FY 2001 Budget Request around the strategic outcome goals of Ideas, People and Tools, as well as the Administration and Management activities necessary to achieve these goals.
The table below provides an FY 2001 crosswalk for MPS between funding for the strategic goals and the key program functions.
(Millions of Dollars)
Number of People involved in MPS Activities
MPS Funding Profile
1 Statistics for award size and duration are for research grants only.
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