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News Release 17-085

NSF announces 14 new PIRE awards to support scientific collaboration in 24 countries

US researchers leverage international partnerships to extend the frontiers of science, engineering and education

Divers collecting algae samples in the ocean.

Leo Chan and a graduate student sample benthic algae in reefs off the coast of Hong Kong.

September 12, 2017

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is pleased to announce 14 new Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) awards, totaling more than $66 million over the next five years.

The awards will fund 14 lead U.S. institutions and U.S. partner institutions for collaborative projects involving international partners in 24 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"By linking together researchers from around the world, PIRE allows us to leverage U.S. dollars and improve scientific outcomes," said Rebecca Keiser, head of NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE), which manages PIRE. "These rich partnerships tackle some of today's most pressing research questions, from new materials to marine sciences."

NSF has a long history of fostering and supporting international relationships to address critical science and engineering (S&E) questions. Since its inception in 2005, the PIRE program has accelerated scientific discovery and enhanced the U.S. science and technology workforce by leveraging investments from foreign governments that also provide funding to these collaborative projects.

PIRE supports fundamental, international research and education in physical, living, human and engineered systems. As the focal point for international collaboration across NSF, OISE, which funds the U.S. portion of the international collaboration, catalyzes global S&E activities and builds effective partnership throughout the international S&E research and education community.

The new PIRE awards are briefly described below:

Hybrid Materials for Quantum Science and Engineering (HYBRID): Sergey Frolov, University of Pittsburgh. Partner country: France.

This project will study the effect of crystal growth and fabrication of quantum devices based on newly synthesized materials aided by theoretical and computational studies.

Bio-inspired Materials and Systems: LaShanda Korley, Case Western Reserve University. Partner country: Switzerland.

The project will use biomimetic materials to design adaptive and/or tough materials, implantable materials, excitable fibers and gels, and dynamic and functional fibers for soft robotic applications.

Science of Design for Societal-Scale Cyber-Physical Systems: Janos Sztipanovits, Vanderbilt University. Partner country: Germany.

This project seeks to develop a new Science of Design for societal-scale Cyber- Physical Systems such as traffic networks, electric grids, or networks of autonomous systems (e.g. self-driving cars, unmanned air vehicles) where control is dynamically shifted between humans and machines.

Investigation of Multi-scale, Multi-phase Phenomena in Complex Fluids for the Energy Industries: Masahiro Kawaji, CUNY City College. Partner countries: France, Germany and Norway.

This project will investigate multiscale phenomena in complex, multiphase fluids vital to energy technologies, such as the production and processing of oil and gas, energy conversion and storage, refrigeration and heating and cooling.

High Temperature Ceramic Fibers: Polymer-Based Manufacturing, Nanostructure, and Performance: Gurpreet Singh, Kansas State University. Partner countries: France, Germany Italy, and Japan.

This project will advance the materials science of certain polymer-derived ceramic fibers to reduce costs and improve performance for high temperature applications, particularly jet aircraft turbines.

Centennial Genetic and Species Transformations in the Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity: Kent Carpenter, Old Dominion University Research Foundation. Partner country: Philippines.

This project will compare the genetic diversity of fish collected in the Philippines during the 1907-1909 expedition of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries ship Albatross with the same location's present population to examine the loss of genetic diversity.

Advancing global strategies and understanding on the origin of ciguatera fish poisoning in tropical oceans: Alison Robertson, University of South Alabama. Partner countries: Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, Malaysia, Norway, Philippines and United Kingdom.

The project will investigate the threat to coral reef ecosystems by ciguatera fish poisoning, the most common nonbacterial seafood illness. This project will extend understanding of the environmental conditions affecting the production of ciguatoxins, and determine the fate of the toxins through the food web across geographical regions.

International partnership for cirrus studies: Elizabeth Moyer, University of Chicago. Partner countries: France, Germany and Switzerland.

This project will study one of the coldest and least understood parts of the atmosphere, the tropical tropopause layer (TTL). New satellite measurements suggest the TTL ice crystal layer is denser than previously thought, resulting in a stronger effect on the Earth's radiation level.

Climate Research Education in the Americas using tree-ring and cave sediment examples: Mathias Vuille, University at Albany-State University of New York. Partner countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

This project will investigate the nature of extreme events over the Americas during the last one thousand years by merging data from the two largest tree ring and cave sediment (stalagmite) archives in South America with new, unpublished records. This research will enhance scientists' understanding of the underlying causes of past climate perturbations.

Black Hole Astrophysics in the Era of Distributed Resources and Expertise: Dimitrios Psaltis, University of Arizona. Partner countries: Germany, Mexico and Taiwan.

This project will fund activities in detector development, mounting coordinated observations, fast data transfer and cloud computing for the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an Earth-sized array of telescopes. The EHT seeks to capture the first images of astrophysical black holes and test Einstein's theory of general relativity in extreme conditions.

Advanced Germanium Detectors and Technologies for Underground Physics: Dongming Mei, University of South Dakota. Partner countries: Canada, China, Germany and Taiwan.

This project will develop germanium material platforms used for large scale dark matter and neutrinoless double-beta decay experiments. The nature of dark matter and the key properties of neutrinos are two of the most important questions in fundamental physics.

Computationally-Based Imaging of Structure in Materials (CuBISM): Kenneth Shull, Northwestern University. Partner countries: France, Italy and Netherlands.

This project will develop computational and experimental tools to understand property degradation over long periods of time by examining historic art objects.

Confronting Energy Poverty: Building an Interdisciplinary Evidence Base, Network, and Capacity for Transformative Change: Pamela Jagger, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Partner countries: Malawai, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This project will test the impact of energy poverty mitigation interventions on air quality, land use and human welfare. Results will help address the resulting negative impacts on environmental sustainability and human health.

PIRE-Sustainable Communities & Gold Supply Chains: Integrating Responsible Engineering & Local Knowledge to Design, Implement & Evaluate Sustainable Artisanal Mining in Latin America: Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines. Partner countries: Colombia and Peru.

This project will study sustainability of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). ASGM causes large-scale deforestation, air and water contamination, and chronic human diseases from the mercury used to process the ore.


Media Contacts
Kim L. Silverman, NSF/OLPA, (703) 292-4515, email:

Program Contacts
Cassandra M. Dudka, OD/OISE, (703) 292-7250, email:
Charles H. Estabrook, OD/OISE, (703) 292-7222, 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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