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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 99-45 (NSB 99-141) - July 29, 1999

Media contact:

 Bill Noxon

 (703) 292-8070

Program contact:

 Deborah Crawford

 (703) 306-1040

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

National Science Board Approves Five New NSF Science and Technology Centers
New Centers Focus on Integrative Partnerships

The National Science Board (NSB) today approved five new National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Centers (STCs), agreeing to commit almost $94 million over five years in a range of important scientific and technological areas.

The new centers will embark upon five-year cooperative agreements with NSF. Program guidelines allow for financial commitments of up to $20 million each, but final awards are subject to negotiation between NSF and the lead institutions within these wide-ranging partnership activities. In addition, the in-kind contributions brought into the centers by partners can raise their total value well beyond the actual monetary awards.

"We are delighted to have this wide range of projects before us that hold so much promise for discovery, while creating such exciting educational components," Deborah Crawford, program manager in NSF's Office of Integrative Activities, said.

NSF established the Science and Technology Center program in 1987 to respond to a Presidential commitment to fund important fundamental research activities that also create educational opportunities. The program was also designed to encourage technology transfer and provide innovative approaches to interdisciplinary research challenges. These are the first new STC awards in eight years. From the first two competitions in 1989 and 1991, 23 STCs were still in operation before today's additions authorized by the NSB.

In 1997, the STC program was modified to emphasize the special contributions partnerships bring to the program. When today’s awards are added, more than 36 U.S. colleges and universities, along with government labs, and some international academic institutions, will participate.

Among the STCs approved today, is a new center for water sustainability, led by the University of Arizona. The university has established a complex partnership among a host of universities, government labs and private sources to explore water management in semi-arid regions, a particularly contentious issue that will be studied from the scientific, social, political and educational perspectives.

Among other new STC awards authorized by the NSB is a center for nanobiotechnology (led by Cornell University) that will research the potential for miniature biotechnologies that have potential wide applications in health care. A center for adaptive optics (led by University of California at Santa Cruz) will explore how to correct for a range of visual distortions that will impact fields in astronomy through opthamology. A behavioral neuroscience center (led by Emory University in Atlanta) will attempt to break new ground in understanding how behavior emerges from the interaction of the nervous system's molecular components. A new center for environmentally responsible solvents and processes (led by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) will research how to use carbon dixoide as an industrial solvent, which could affect a wide range of industries.


Attachment: Summary of new STC awards.

For more information see:


Science and Technology Centers:
Integrative Partnerships Awards - 1999

Science and Technology Center on Nanobiotechnology
(Lead institution: Cornell University)

Using nanobiotechnology, complex biological systems can be engineered which approximate organs or tissues that respond to their environment. Consequently, engineered interacting cell cultures may be used to replace animals in drug testing. Nanobiotechnology also holds great promise for understanding how neurons communicate, and opportunity exists in the application of such knowledge in the development of neural prosthetics.

The center will employ a highly interdisciplinary, close collaboration among life scientists, physical scientists and engineers to undertake the research and education opportunties afforded by this emerging area.

The center will develop educational tools such as a traveling exhibit for museums, "It's a Nano World," and a summer institute for elementary and middle school-level science teachers.

Science and Technology Center for Adaptive Optics
(Lead institution: University of California at Santa Cruz)

Adaptive Optics is a method for removing blur caused by changing distortions within optical systems, and thus has tremendous implications in astronomical and vision sciences applications. For example, adaptive optics makes ground-based telescopes “see” as clearly as if they were in space, and has the potential for use in the diagnosis of retinal disease.

The STC for Adaptive Optics will develop new instruments optimized for adaptive optics: coronographs will be developed to study black holes in galaxies and planets around nearby stars; opthalomoscopes will be developed to make possible high resolution 3-D construction of retinal blood vessels and optic nerve fibers that carry signals to the brain.

The center will use facilities in major cities to bring adaptive optics research into K-12 after-school and summer science programs, expand graduate education opportunities for Native Americans and provide training for optical technicians.

Science and Technology Center for Behavioral Neuroscience
(Lead institution: Emory University, Atlanta)

Although many recent research advances have led to an understanding of the brain and how it functions, scientists have not yet developed an understanding of the brain’s greatest mystery: behavior. Complex social behaviors that are essential for species survival, for example, remain largely unexplored.

This new center will develop an interdisciplinary approach for studying how the brain regulates behavior and how experience modifies the brain. Center activities will lead to an understanding of how hormones influence behavior, how genes are regulated or how brain mechanisms have been adapted as a result of different environmental demands. Researchers will study the neurobiological mechanisms that control emotional states and complex social behaviors such as aggression and reproduction.

The center will work with the Atlanta Public Schools on professional opportunities for teachers, and with area universities on creating a new undergraduate major in neuroscience and behavioral biology.

Science and Technology Center for Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes
(Lead Institution: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

More than 30 billion pounds of organic and halogenated solvents are used worldwide each year as process aids, cleaning agents and dispersants. Considerably more water is used and contaminated in related processes. Carbon dioxide holds great promise as an alternative, industrial solvent because it is non-toxic, inexpensive, widely available and environmentally benign.

The new center will establish fundamentals necessary to enable liquid and supercritical carbon dioxide to replace aqueous and organic solvents in a large number of key processes in many manufacturing industries.

The center will provide a ninth grade earth science elective that will provide the basis for how principles of chemistry and engineering are set within the context of social, political and economic issues. The center will also create a summer minority undergraduate internship program.

Science and Technology Center on the Sustainability of Water Resources in Semi-Arid Regions
(Lead institution: University of Arizona)

Population growth and economic development place intense demands on the quantity and quality of available water resources worldwide. The sustainability of water resources in the future, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, will depend on efficient management of water resource systems under a more variable (and possibly warmer) future climate.

This new center will focus on water management issues in the greater southwestern U.S., a region experiencing rates of development exceeding those of other regions. The area is highly sensitive to long-term climate change.

Social and economic research activities will focus upon the implications of demographic and economic shifts, changing legal structures and economic markets for water, and changing public attitudes toward sustainable water management.

Educational activities will bring water resource issues to the forefront of science education at all levels. Such activities include K-12 teacher education programs involving field study experiences, the development of new curricular materials and special outreach to Native American schools.




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