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News Release 07-112

New Approach Encourages Engineers to Pursue Paradigm Shifts

Emerging Frontiers program to drive high-risk, high-payoff research

When researchers alter the environment in which a fruit fly develops, changes result.

When researchers alter the environment in which a fruit fly develops, changes result.

August 30, 2007

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

To advance research at the furthest frontiers of science and engineering, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has created a new office for funding high-risk, interdisciplinary projects that have the potential for transforming entire engineering fields to address critical societal problems.

The Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) in the Directorate for Engineering announced its first 12 grants today, a total commitment of nearly $24 million over four years to researchers at 23 institutions.

The first set of awards funds research that may advance basic knowledge and control of both the biological and manufactured worlds.

Specifically, each of the first awards will focus on one of two main goals: understanding cells as integrated systems that interact with their environments, opening the way to understanding disease at the molecular level; and developing "central nervous systems" that allow complex, human-built systems--such as air traffic control, wireless communication networks or citywide transportation--to modify themselves in response to unexpected events.

"It has become evident in the past few decades that many creative contributions and major advances occur when teams of researchers work together at the interfaces amongst disciplines," said Sohi Rastegar, director of the EFRI office. "Exploring these cross-sections with an engineering systems approach provides unique opportunities for projects with potentially transformative results," he added

Rastegar anticipates that the EFRI investments will lead to new research areas for NSF and other agencies to support, new industries or capabilities that enhance our nation's leadership position, and significant progress on a range of national needs and challenges.

Additional information on the EFRI awards, including award abstracts, is available at:


Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730, email:

Program Contacts
Sohi Rastegar, NSF, (703) 292-8305, 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 2022 budget of $8.8 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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