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Perspectives of the NSF Assistant Director for Engineering

Dr. Pramod Khargonekar, NSF Assistant Director for Engineering, shares his thoughts on emerging ideas, frontier research areas, and national needs.

NSF Engineering invests to understand, protect, and harness the power of the brain

May 1, 2014

In recent years, higher-resolution imaging techniques and sensors and cutting-edge tools such as optogenetics have enabled unprecedented access to the human nervous system. The knowledge gained from these endeavors has also inspired researchers to reverse engineer the brain's computational power to create new technologies that learn and adapt like the human brain. Despite these successes, a number of challenges remain ahead in our quest to understand, protect, and harness the power of the brain.

In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering identified the goal of reverse engineering the brain as one of fourteen "grand challenges" for 21st century engineers, encouraging engineering research that advances our understanding of the nervous system and seeks to replicate the brain's incredible processing capabilities.

The NSF Directorate for Engineering has long supported basic brain research through efforts including the NSF-wide Cognitive Science and Neuroscience Initiative. From designing new biocompatible materials to developing better sensors and neural prosthetics, our grantees create new ways to tap into the brain and help drive the development of new brain-based technologies... More

NSF Engineering invests to improve critical infrastructure

March 21, 2014

Modern civilizations rely on a network of infrastructure systems to move people and goods safely and efficiently, to bring power and water to homes and businesses, and to enable real-time communications around the world. This infrastructure is critical to economic competitiveness and high quality of life.

In the United States, there is increasing recognition that aging infrastructure poses a major challenge, now and in the coming years. In addition, the emerging digital economy and increasing prevalence of cyber infrastructure across platforms are helping to ensure that future infrastructure systems will be more connected than ever before.

Looking to the future, NSF and the Directorate for Engineering expect that our current research investments (see the programs and partnerships listed below) will lead the way to more efficient, integrated and sustainable infrastructure systems that are secure and resilient in the face of disasters... More

NSF Engineering, a leader in advanced manufacturing

December 13, 2013

Manufacturing is at the core of advanced industrial societies. It allows us to put the discoveries and inventions from fundamental scientific and engineering research into the hands of people. Increasingly, the development of new technologies and the manufacture of useful products rely on new knowledge from many scientific disciplines.

NSF and the Directorate for Engineering have long led the development of fundamental principles of and knowledge base for manufacturing. We have supported the pursuit of frontier research to bring about transformational advances in manufacturing. For example, additive manufacturing grew, in part, from NSF investments in the 1970s and 1980s. Looking forward, we expect that our broad portfolio of current research investments (see the programs and partnerships listed below) will lead to new paradigms for manufacturing in the coming decades.

In the future, manufacturing will be distributed, Internet-enabled, personalized, digital, and dynamic. New web-based tools are allowing producers to work with suppliers around the globe, improving reliability even through most disruptions. Web-based tools also are allowing producers to connect with consumers in completely new ways... More