NSF PR 99-45 (NSB 99-141) - July 29, 1999
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National Science Board Approves Five New NSF Science
and Technology Centers
New Centers Focus on Integrative
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.