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NSF Awards $76M for 2006 Science and Technology Centers

October 09, 2006

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a total of $76 million over the next five years to fund multi-university collaborations to support four cross-disciplinary centers to address fundamental questions in the areas of next-generation polymers, climate modeling, microbial oceanography and coastal environments.

With the new awards, NSF currently supports 17 Science and Technology Centers that involve nearly 100 academic institutions, national laboratories, industrial organizations or other entities. The centers build intellectual and physical infrastructures within and between disciplines, and bring together the creation, integration, and transfer of new knowledge to the mainstream and industrial communities.

Centers offer the research and engineering community an effective mechanism to undertake long-term scientific and technological research and education activities, to explore better and more effective ways to educate students and to develop mechanisms to ensure the timely transition of research and education advances into service in society.

Each center receives roughly $19 million over five years, and if approved, receives an additional five years of support following a thorough evaluation.

The new centers are described below.

The NSF Science and Technology Center for Layered Polymeric Systems, headquartered at Case Western Reserve University, will conduct research at the intersection between the physical sciences and polymer science and engineering. The research will center on a layering process created at Case Western that imparts features on the micro- and nanoscales. The forced-assembly process can combine otherwise incompatible polymers and other materials to produce hierarchical structures.

The center also involves partners at the University of Texas at Austin, Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., the Cleveland Municipal School District, the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., the State University of New York at Fredonia, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y., and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

The NSF Science and Technology Center for Multi-Scale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes, headquartered at Colorado State University, will create improved climate models for more accurately depicting cloud processes and enhancing climate and weather forecasting.

The prototype model allows scientists to take a two-dimensional model of a collection of clouds and apply the behavior of those clouds to each of the thousands of grid columns of a global atmospheric model.

The center also involves partners at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., in addition to other investigators and educators around the country and in Canada, Japan, England and Australia.

Headquartered at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, the NSF Science and Technology Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, will facilitate collaborations among the disparate disciplines of oceanography, microbiology, ecology and genomics.

Researchers will pursue a deeper understanding of the oceans and how they respond to global environmental variability and climate change and the biology, ecology and biogeochemistry of marine microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, single-celled plants and viruses.

The center also involves partners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oregon State University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Hawai'i Department of Education.

The final new center is the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Headquartered at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, the center will use advances in genomics and proteomics to study coastal margins. Coastal margins comprise less than 20 percent of the contiguous U.S. but support more than half of the U.S. population.

The effort will involve SATURN, a space-age river and ocean observation network that includes boats, buoys, stationary platforms, undersea ocean gliders and even unmanned, bottom-crawling vehicles to continuously collect real-time data on water temperature, salinity, levels of oxygen and organic compounds, presence of microbial communities and other factors.

Scientists will use the data to build computer models and simulations for determining climate change impacts on coastal margins, the roles coastal margins play in the global cycling of environmental carbon, nutrients, gases and other manmade and natural substances, and how far seaward human activities affect ecosystems.

The center also involves partners at the University of Washington, Oregon State University, Portland State University, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the University of Utah.