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News Release 05-169

NSF Centers Will Use Nano-Interface Control and Bioengineering for Materials by Design

Scientists observed trapped electrical charge in an organic semiconductor for the first time.

Scientists observed trapped electrical charge in an organic semiconductor for the first time.

September 27, 2005

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.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) has established two new Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) at Yale University and the University of Washington, with a combined NSF investment of up to $14 million over the next six years. The centers will also receive substantial support from the participating academic institutions, state governments and industry.

The Center for Research on Interface Structure and Phenomena will investigate the electronic, magnetic and chemical properties of complex oxide materials and their interfaces, with potential applications to magnetic storage, spintronics, and chemical sensing. The Center is a partnership between Yale University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Southern Connecticut State University. The Genetically Engineered Materials Science and Engineering Center at the University of Washington will support innovative research and education that integrates modern biology with state-of-the-art chemical synthesis to construct hybrid materials that cannot be achieved through traditional biology or Chemistry.

Each award is initially for six years; renewed NSF support is possible through competitive review in the fifth year of the award.

In addition to the two new centers, another eleven existing MRSECs successfully renewed support in open competition in FY 2005. (A total of 29 Centers are currently supported by the MRSEC program with annual NSF support of $52.5 million.) Each Center has made a substantial commitment to effectively integrate its educational activities with its scientific research program, and to fully develop its human resource potential. The educational outreach activities can range from the elementary school to the postgraduate level. Additionally, the MRSECs constitute a national network of Centers that seeks increased impact on materials science and education beyond what is expected from any one Center.

"Advanced materials are the hidden 'stuff' that enables the modern world to function," said Lance Haworth, Executive Officer for DMR's Division of Materials Research. "Fundamental research on materials is essential to the nation's health, prosperity and welfare. New materials are key to a whole range of rapidly changing technologies such as energy, computers and communications, transportation and increasingly health- and medicine-related technologies as well. These two new awards join a vigorous network of NSF-funded interdisciplinary Centers that are doing exciting work at the frontiers of materials research and preparing the next generation of materials researchers."



The Genetically Engineered Materials Science and Engineering Center: $6.48 million / 6 years
University of Washington
Director: Mehmet Sarikaya
This new MRSEC investigates new protein based molecular building blocks to use for synthesis and assembly of nanostructured hybrid materials with novel photonic, electronic, or chemical properties. The center is establishing an international network of laboratories sharing common interests in molecular biomimetics and is partnering with industry and National Laboratories. The MRSEC will conduct a unique outreach program to Native Americans.

Center for Research on Interface Structure and Phenomena: $7.5 million / 6 years
Yale University
Director: John Tully
This new Center focuses on complex oxide interfaces and their wealth of new science and applications. The Center effectively uses the experimental and theoretically resources of the three collaborating institutions and carries out extensive education and outreach activities that use materials science as a vehicle for enhancing scientific literacy.

Succesfully Recompeting Centers

Micro- and Nanomechanics of Electronic and Structural Materials: $9.36 million / 6 years
Brown University
Director: William Curtin

The MRSEC carries out experimental and theoretical studies of the micro- and nano-mechanics of electronic and structural materials. Active collaborations exist with industry and are currently enhanced with industrial partners in the opto-electronic sector. The center has developed a series of materials science modules for secondary schools with plans to extend this activity to middle schools.

Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials: $9.60 million / 6 years
California Institute of Technology
Director: Harry Atwater
The Center supports an interdisciplinary research program on advanced materials, as well as a wide range of educational activities, including outreach to minority communities in California both at the pre-college and college level, and development of pre-college instructional materials. Caltech is linked with California State at Los Angeles through a Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) grant.

Material Research Laboratory: $20.52 million / 6 years
University of California, Santa Barbara
Director: Craig Hawker

The Center investigates a wide range of materials including new semiconductors for microelectronics, novel nanostructures for high speed communication devices and advanced polymeric materials. Significant effort is devoted to a successful K-12 and International Outreach programs. Active collaborations exist with a variety of small to large companies. These activities have a direct benefit to the greater Santa Barbara community.

Material Research Science and Engineering Center: $6.5 million / 6 years
Carnegie Mellon University
Director: Greg Rohrer

This MRSEC is dedicated to the understanding and control of interface dominated materials properties with emphasis on the study of grain boundary networks that determine the performance of many polycrystalline materials. The Center has extensive collaborations with industry and national laboratories, as well as important international collaborations. An important feature of the educational program is a Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) with Florida A&M University.

Center for Materials Research: $18.28 million / 6 years
Cornell University
Director: Frank DiSalvo

The major theme of Cornell MRSEC is Mastery of Materials at the Atomic and Molecular Level. New ways to synthesize, characterize and understand interfaces and surfaces at the atomic and molecular scales must continue to be invented and exploited to enable forefront discoveries in many fields. The center is aided in these tasks by extensive shared facilities on campus supported by a large interdisciplinary materials community extending well beyond specific MRSEC projects. The center supports an exceptionally strong education program for pre- K-12, undergraduate and graduate students and the public.

Material Research Science and Engineering Center: $7.2 million / 6 years
Johns Hopkins University
Director: Chia-Ling Chien

The Center conducts fundamental research on nanostructures that exhibit enhanced magneto-electronic properties due to the intricate structure of the entities and the interplay of the constituent materials. The MRSEC has active collaborations with industrial partners, particularly those in magnetic recording, national labs and research institutions. Educational outreach is aimed at undergraduates, high school teachers and students, middle school students, and local communities.

Material Research Science and Engineering Center: $10.05 million / 6 years
University of Maryland
Director: Ellen D. Williams

The Maryland MRSEC carries out nationally recognized fundamental research on surfaces and interfaces of materials with potential impact on the next generation of opto- and nano-electronic devices, and on complex oxides with potential applications in memory, switches and sensors. The research is closely integrated with a continuing educational outreach program that has a direct impact on the education of a diverse population of K - 12 students and teachers.

Material Research Science and Engineering Center: $12.8 million / 6 years
Northwestern University
Director: John Torkelson

The Center supports an interdisciplinary research program on materials with an emphasis on the nanoscale. The Center features a strong pre-college education program, including the widely disseminated Materials World Modules (MWM), as well as outstanding undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities. The science teachers who participate in the summer research program represent middle schools, high schools and community colleges and many actively collaborate with the Center throughout the school year.

Center for Semiconductor Physics in Nanostructures: $7.8 million / 6 years
University of Oklahoma / University of Arkansas
Director: Matthew Johnson
The Center, a collaboration between the Universities of Oklahoma and of Arkansas, supports an interdisciplinary research program on semiconductor nanostructure science and applications. The Center is engaged in a number of educational activities from the graduate to the middle school level, including support for workshops for middle and high school science teachers.

Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter: $21.6 million / 6 years
University of Pennsylvania
Director: Michael Klein

The MRSEC integrates the design, synthesis, characterization, theory & modeling of materials ranging from hybrid macro-molecules and de novo proteins, with architectures & functions inspired by nature, to nano- and micro-structured hard & soft materials with unique properties. The MRSEC sustains an array of education and human resources development programs, whose impact will range from K-12 students and their teachers to undergraduates and faculty at minority serving institutions. It is associated with the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao through a Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM).

MRSEC on Nanostructured Interfaces: $14.76 million / 6 years
University of Wisconsin
Director: Juan DePablo

The research focuses on the mechanisms associated with materials integration onto silicon, the investigation of grain boundaries in high temperature superconductors, and the role of nanostructured textured surfaces on the growth and behavior of biological systems such as cells and viruses. The Center's strong educational outreach features development, testing, and dissemination of instructional materials, which can be integrated into high school or college science courses. The Center carries out an aggressive program to increase the participation of underrepresented groups through enhanced contacts with minority-serving institutions and has extensive collaborations with industry.

Media Contacts
M. Mitchell Waldrop, NSF, (703) 292-7752, email:

Program Contacts
Maija M. Kukla, NSF, (703) 292-4940, email:
Ulrich Strom, NSF, (703) 292-4938, email:
Thomas P. Rieker, NSF, (703) 292-4914, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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