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Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Office of Multidisciplinary Activities

The Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (OMA) facilitates and supports opportunities in research and education that cross the traditional disciplinary boundaries. OMA works in partnership with the five MPS Divisions—Astronomical Sciences, Chemistry, Materials Research, Mathematical Sciences, and Physics—to respond more effectively to the excellence and creativity of the MPS communities, particularly to proposals that, because of their subject, scope, or multi-investigator or multidisciplinary nature, did not readily fit the existing MPS program structure.

OMA provides a focal point in the Directorate for partnerships (e.g., with other agencies, industry, national laboratories, State and local governments, and international organizations), seeds crosscutting research in areas of particular promise, and supports innovative experiments in education that could lead to new paradigms in graduate and undergraduate education in the mathematical and physical sciences, particularly in multidisciplinary settings.

OMA is open to creative ideas from all segments of the MPS community, ranging from individual investigators to centers. It especially encourages initiatives by multi-investigator, multidisciplinary teams pursuing problems on a scale that exceeds the capacity of individual investigators. OMA is particularly receptive to projects incorporating education and research training experiences that contribute to a diverse, high-quality workforce with technical and professional skills, career path flexibility, and an appetite for lifelong learning appropriate to the dynamic global science and technology enterprise of the 21st century.

In addition to encouraging creative proposals from the community, OMA works with MPS Divisions to identify areas of research and education that are seen as particularly timely and promising. Three areas of emphasis for fiscal year 2004 are the development of next-generation instrumentation to enable fundamental advances within disciplines and across disciplinary boundaries; innovations in education, particularly at the graduate and undergraduate levels, that broaden the backgrounds and strengthen the technical, professional, and personal skills of graduates; and research at the interface between MPS disciplines and the biological sciences, where there are extraordinary opportunities for mathematical and physical scientists to use their expertise in addressing significant research and instrumentation challenges in the biosciences and biomedical-related sciences.

In partnership with the MPS Divisions, OMA coordinates three MPS-wide activities that integrate research and education:

1. Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)

Utilize the extensive network of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites as a platform for providing in-service and preservice K–12 teachers with discovery-based learning experiences in the MPS disciplines that they can incorporate into their classroom activities.

2. MPS Distinguished International Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (MPS-DRF)

Enable postdoctoral investigators in MPS disciplines to carry out research at the world’s leading facilities and laboratories. A primary objective of the MPS-DRF activity is to provide talented, recent doctoral recipients in the mathematical and physical sciences with an effective means of establishing international collaborations in the early stages of their careers, thereby facilitating and enhancing connections between the U.S. science and engineering community and its international counterparts (see program announcement NSF 01-154).

3. MPS Internships in Public Science Education (MPS-IPSE)

Are intended to bring together the expertise of the scientific research community traditionally supported by the MPS Directorate with that of the public science education community, in partnership, to communicate the most recent scientific advances to the public. The IPSE activity provides support for undergraduate and graduate students and for K–12 teachers to work in conjunction with MPS research scientists and with professionals at science centers and museums on projects in public science education (see program announcement NSF 02-064).

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