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News Release 98-067

NSF Teams With DOE to Fund Environmental Molecular Science Institutes

October 13, 1998

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) together with the Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a total of $21.4 million over five years to establish three Environmental Molecular Science Institutes (EMSIs).

Grants made to Columbia, Northwestern and Princeton Universities in this one-time competition will allow these institutes to be national models for collaborative research in chemistry aimed at understanding the natural environment and solving environmental problems. Awards to each EMSI site will average $1.4 million per year for five years with the NSF contributing a total of $15.4 million and the DOE contributing $6 million.

"We are very excited about this opportunity for our Chemistry Division to provide leadership in environmental science, " said Robert A. Eisenstein, Ph.D., NSF's Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Martha Krebs, Ph.D., Director of DOE's Office of Energy Research agreed. "The establishment of these institutes emphasizes the critical role of the physical sciences and engineering in addressing global environmental problems that require a multidisciplinary approach." Krebs added, "This new partnership among the DOE's national laboratories, the universities and private industries provides researchers with the opportunity to capitalize on some of the excellent scientific facilities and unique expertise available at the national laboratories."

Each EMSI will provide a unique program for academic scientists and engineers from multiple disciplines to work with industrial colleagues and with students to improve understanding of how nature and technology affect environmental systems at the molecular level. The EMSI teams at Columbia, Northwestern and Princeton will collectively employ close to 200 investigators and students and a dozen industrial partners. Education and outreach are well integrated into the scientific programs.

Columbia University's award for "Chemical Sources and Sinks at Liquid/Solid Interfaces," supports development of new tools to predict and repair contamination by organic chemicals. The study will focus on how organic pollutants are transported and decompose as they move through soils and groundwater.

Investigators at Northwestern University's "Institute for Environmental Catalysis (IEC)," will research the catalytic oxidation of organic compounds to determine ways to reduce the formation of pollutants and enhance their removal from waste streams.

Researchers at Princeton University will study "Environmental BioInorganic Chemistry," particularly how metal-based enzymes affect marine ecosystems. These enzymes are important in global nitrogen and carbon cycles.

For further information contact:
Department of Energy, Michelle del Valle, (202) 586-4940
Columbia University, Bob Nelson, (212) 854-6580
Northwestern University, Bill Burton, (847) 491-3115
Princeton University, Mary Caffrey, (609) 258-5748


Media Contacts
Yvette Estok, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Margaret Cavanaugh, NSF, (703) 292-8500, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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