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NSF BRITE Fellows to investigate high-risk engineering opportunities for impact

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NSF’s BRITE Fellow awards enable researchers to pursue ambitious engineering research ideas.

December 7, 2022

The U.S. National Science Foundation awarded five engineering research grants to explore programmable materials, hybrid semiconductor manufacturing, cellular responses to stress, human-centered autonomous systems, and equitable disaster resilience.

Funded through the NSF Boosting Research Ideas for Transformative and Equitable Advances in Engineering (BRITE) program, the five-year BRITE Fellow grants provide up to $1 million per project. The NSF BRITE program is funded by NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) in the NSF Engineering Directorate.

“The BRITE Fellow opportunity supports researchers who have a strong track record and a bold, unconventional vision that, if successful, could transform what’s possible and bring great benefits to the Nation,” said CMMI Division Director Robert Stone. “NSF expects these BRITE Fellow projects to challenge established ideas, open new fields and create new paths through thorny problems.”

The five NSF BRITE Fellow awards for FY 2023 are:

  • AI-Enabled Discovery and Design of Programmable Material Systems, Northwestern University: Programmable materials take on new shapes or functions in response to their environments, and they hold promise for use in medicine, transportation, construction, and other areas. Principal Investigator Wei Chen will develop methods to design the materials, architectures, and stimuli of programmable material systems simultaneously and predictably.
  • Autonomous Systems that Accommodate Human Perception and Reasoning about Uncertainty, University of New Mexico: Principal Investigator Meeko Oishi will integrate knowledge of human perception and reasoning about uncertainty into new methods for the design and control of autonomous dynamical systems. Her research will ensure a predictable level of safety in interactions between autonomous systems and humans in uncertain environments, with applications in aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare systems.
  • The Mechanobiology of Sex and Stress, University of California, Santa Barbara: Principal Investigator Beth Pruitt will investigate sex differences in cellular responses to hormonal stressors, cardiotoxic stressors such as chemotherapy, and environmental stressors like those of aging, injury, and disease. She will develop new tools, methods and large data sets to study differing stress responses in cells, which today are observed only in tissues and organisms.
  • A New Paradigm of Equitable and Smart Multi-Hazard Resilience Modeling, William March Rice University: Principal Investigator Jamie Padgett will develop new methods for infrastructure resilience modeling that responds to the uncertain and evolving conditions imposed by earthquakes, hurricanes, and other hazards. Padgett will address inequities in data collection and algorithms to create just, intelligent, and adaptable models and more confident predictions.
  • Semiconductor Evolution via Manufacturing Innovation, Duke University: Principal Investigator Adrienne Stiff-Roberts will undertake feasibility research to transform a new hybrid manufacturing technique for thin-film deposition from lab-scale to commercial-scale. This adaptable technique could enable production of devices that combine organic and inorganic materials (like silicon semiconductors) and offer new functionality and performance.

“NSF’s BRITE Fellow awards give researchers unusual freedom to pursue ambitious research ideas. It’s exciting to imagine how they will push the boundaries of engineering and lay foundations for future exploration and impacts,” said Siddiq Qidwai, lead NSF program director for BRITE.

In addition to the Fellow awards, the NSF BRITE program is funding projects in three other tracks — supporting Pivot, Relaunch, and Synergy awards — for a total investment of more than $10 million in FY 2023.

NSF BRITE award research topics span all five clusters of CMMI: advanced manufacturing; dynamics, controls and cognition; engineering for civil infrastructure; mechanics of engineering materials and structures; and operations and design. See a list of all active NSF BRITE awards.

The NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation advances the future of manufacturing, the design of innovative materials and building technologies, infrastructure resilience and sustainability, and tools and systems for decision-making, robotics and controls.


Media Contacts 
Media Affairs, NSF, (703) 292-7090, 

Related Websites 
NSF Boosting Research Ideas for Transformative and Equitable Advances in Engineering (BRITE) program: 
NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation: 
BRITE awards from FY 2022: 

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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