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News Release 18-081

New NSF funding to build research infrastructure across the country

7 awards continue targeted investment approach from NSF’s EPSCoR program

A stream in Montana

Supported research includes a Montana project to predict the impact of water contamination.


September 18, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded nearly $140 million to seven jurisdictions through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which builds research and development capacity in jurisdictions that demonstrate a commitment to research but have thus far lacked the levels of investment seen in other parts of the country.

The new EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 awards will bolster science and engineering research infrastructure in Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire and New Mexico, each of which will receive five years of support.

EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill the foundation's mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. The program enhances research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions by strengthening their capacity for education, workforce training and innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). EPSCoR works with jurisdictions to identify and support projects with the greatest likelihood of success in those areas.

"NSF is committed to supporting the nation's STEM research ecosystem, and part of that mission means that we're making sure that top-notch research infrastructure opportunities can be found across the country," said Suzi Iacono, head of NSF's Office of Integrative activities. "This year's awards continue EPSCoR's tradition of targeted investments that take advantage of the strengths of recipient jurisdictions."

Currently, 23 states plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam are eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding. Through EPSCoR, NSF establishes regional partnerships with government, higher education and industry that result in lasting improvements in a state's or territory's research infrastructure and research and development capacity.

"These new awards will fund research in areas of national importance in jurisdictions that have unique capabilities when it comes to exploring and understanding them," said Sean Kennan, program manager for EPSCoR. "The projects target high priority research areas for NSF including next-generation power grids, the mitigation of wildfires, the prevention of water contamination, understanding the rules of life, and discovery and development of new materials for future technologies. In addition to improving infrastructure in the jurisdictions, this support for cutting edge research has the potential to benefit the entire nation through advances in public services, innovation in the high-tech sector, environmental remediation and medical solutions, to name just a few."

Each award will foster networking among several universities and research institutions within a jurisdiction to maximize effectiveness of support and create research partnerships with the potential to result in future collaboration. All projects will leverage existing expertise and research infrastructure.

The awards will also promote workforce development in areas relevant to the jurisdictions' vital interests. Such development will include bringing senior and early-career faculty, postdocs, students, staff and partners into research planning and execution.

The jurisdictions receiving this year's awards and their project titles are below.

ALASKA -- Fire and Ice: Navigating Variability in Boreal Wildfire Regimes and Subarctic Coastal Ecosystems, University of Alaska, Anupma Prakash

This project aims to advance fundamental knowledge of ecological change in two critical ecosystems in Alaska: boreal forests and Gulf of Alaska coastal margins. The research topics are of national importance and align with NSF's "Navigating the New Arctic" Big Idea for Future Investment. One research thrust involves remotely imaging and sensing active wildfires to generate models and other tools that predict fire risk and behavior in fire-prone sites of the Alaskan Boreal forest. The second will use remote sensing and imaging to evaluate carbon and nitrogen sources of organic matter at freshwater sites, nearshore sampling of a variety of coastal water properties, and experiments to determine how glacier melt and precipitation change are altering material flux across the Gulf of Alaska coastal margins.

DELAWARE -- Water Security in Delaware's Changing Coastal Environment, University of Delaware, Kent Messer

The Delaware project seeks to assess major threats to the state's water quality and develop viable technological and policy solutions. The project will accomplish this goal by interdisciplinary research integrating social and physical sciences to address the serious challenge of the loss of fresh water quality through nutrient loading and salinization. The research plan will model vulnerable areas, assess and mitigate threats, provide tools to water quality managers, partner with state agencies, and develop new technologies to monitor nutrient loading and salinization in wetlands and watersheds bordering Delaware Bay.

IDAHO -- Linking Genome to Phenome to Predict Adaptive Responses of Organisms to Changing Landscapes, University of Idaho, Janet Nelson

This project aims to develop new understanding of the relationships between genomes and their associated phenomes for two non-model organisms: redband trout and sagebrush, both of which are key indicator species for the Northwestern United States. The study will result in new tools that will be used in key land use decisions in Idaho. Furthermore, these tools will be informed by complex modeling that will also consider geospatial science, remote sensing, and social-ecological systems science.

MISSISSIPPI -- Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOs), Mississippi State University, David Shaw

Mississippi's project aims to contribute significantly to fundamental knowledge in materials science and innovation. Understanding the properties of organic and hybrid materials systems has profound implications for next generation energy technologies and the creation of novel optoelectronic functionalities. The project will develop theoretical and experimental tools, new materials, and techniques to overcome the fundamental limitations of organic semiconductors and enable the broader application of those semiconductors in optoelectronics, the study of systems that source, detect and control light.

MONTANA -- Consortium for Research on Environmental Water Systems, University of Montana, Ragan Callaway

This project will result in significant advances in the ability to predict and control the concentrations and ecological impacts of contaminants in Montana's waters. The project seeks to understand the environmental factors that control the fate and transport of pollutants originating from agriculture (rangeland and crop production) and mining, and their impacts on surface and groundwater quality. Of particular interest are the complex interactions between agrichemicals, such as nitrate and pesticides, and metals released during mining. The project will provide a comprehensive analysis of the roles that landscapes, hydrology, and biogeochemistry play in controlling water quality, with projects that span the molecular to the landscape scales.

NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Center for Multiscale Modeling and Manufacturing of Biomaterials (NH Bio-Made), University of New Hampshire, Brad Kinsey

The New Hampshire project will advance the design and manufacture of hierarchical, heterogeneous biomaterials, enabling researchers to predict and control the composition, structure, properties, and function of these materials. The project will build research capacity and develop a strong workforce in the areas of biotechnology and advanced manufacturing. Activities are organized around an integrated design approach that connects computational modeling, advanced manufacturing, and biomaterials characterization to achieve the desired technology outcomes. This framework is intended to encourage close collaboration across disciplines and establish strong systems-level understanding to drive biomaterials development.

NEW MEXICO -- SMART Grid Center: Sustainable, Modular, Adaptive, Resilient, and Transactive, University of New Mexico, William Michener

New Mexico's EPSCoR project addresses the significant and timely challenge of modernizing the electric grid through the establishment of a new center. It will work toward a novel, efficient and economical solution to enable the existing grid infrastructure to adapt to the changes of the 21st century and beyond. These changes may include increased use of renewable energy sources, extreme weather events, and cyberattacks. The center will integrate and develop new technologies, protocols, models and algorithms for a modern, resilient grid capable of scaling to national energy needs, while reflecting the specific demand and supply profiles and resources of New Mexico and ensuring sustainability and resilience.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Rob Margetta, NSF, (703) 292-2663, email: rmargett@nsf.gov

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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