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Understanding NSF Research

Arctic & Antarctic

At a glance, Earth's polar regions seem like mirror images, located some 12,000 miles apart. Both are vast, icy regions covering opposite ends of the globe. Closer examination reveals differences as well as similarities.

Date Updated: October 15, 2018

Astronomy & Astrophysics

For more than 60 years, the National Science Foundation has significantly advanced the understanding of the universe as the federal steward for ground-based astronomy.

Date Updated: October 15, 2018


A bat, a mushroom, a blade of grass--they're easy to identify as "life." But what about a cold virus or mold? Biologists are life's detectives, discovering what “alive” really means.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005

Chemistry & Materials

Most of what you touch, taste, hear or smell every day in the modern world is the direct or indirect result of research in chemistry or materials science – an effort that never ends.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a long history of supporting computer and information science and engineering research, education and infrastructure. NSF's investments in these fields ensure innovative advances in computing.

Date Updated: October 5, 2018

Earth & Environment

Our planet gives up its secrets slowly. But every year we learn more about its oceans and air, its restless continents, its myriad ecosystems, and the way living things interact with their environments.

Date Updated: October 15, 2018


Learning how people learn, while also supporting the very best ideas and students in U.S. science, engineering and mathematics are essential goals in today's changing world.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005


Engineers bridge the gap between what the mind can imagine and what the laws of nature allow. They work at the outermost frontiers of electronics, manufacturing, bioengineering, structural design and more.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005


Mathematics is the natural language of science and engineering. It is about numbers, shapes, symmetry, chance, change and much more. Mathematics is deeply interwoven into all of modern life.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005


Nanoscience is the ability to manipulate atoms and molecules. This fast-moving field is transforming our ability to custom-design objects and processes at sizes smaller than 1/1000th the width of a hair.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005

People & Society

Out of fascination and need, people have always studied people. When curiosity is backed by scientific methods, we get fascinating insights into human behavior, origins, societies and economies.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005


Physics is the science of matter, energy, space and time. It looks both inward and outward, from the smallest subatomic particle to the vastness of the universe--and yet it is also intensely practical.

Date Updated: January 31, 2005