wins NSF grant for nanoscale materials research
scientist Derren Dunn, left, and research associate Tomas
Chraska, both post-doctoral fellows, examine some of their
work, conducted in the Engineering Schoolıs Focused Ion Beam
Microscope Lab. The two work with professor Robert Hull, who
heads this facility.
U.Va. Engineering School
has won a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation
to establish a new Center for Nanoscopic Design. It is one of
four new NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering
centers nationwide that will explore innovative materials and
further the integration of research and education in the field
of materials science.
pleased and gratified at this vote of confidence by the NSF,"
said Richard W. Miksad, dean of the School of Engineering and
Applied Science. "Only 20 or so of these grants are in effect
at any given time, and we were selected to receive one in vigorous
competition with the nation's top research universities."
grant will strengthen U.Va.'s position at the forefront of materials
research in areas ranging from novel electronic devices to fabrication
of materials at the atomic level. It also will serve as an educational
resource for both high school and university students, said Robert
Hull, principal investigator and professor of materials science
products of modern materials research impact our economy
and our everyday lives. The centers address fundamental
science and engineering problems in the creation of new
materials. They also provide students a highly interdisciplinary
education that is prized by potential employers in industry,
academia and government."
Director of NSF's Division of Materials Research
center will allow us to recruit two new outstanding young faculty
members and bring together about 10 current faculty members from
several departments," Hull said. "The funds also will
allow a dozen top graduate students to work in the center, as
well as providing research experience for several dozen undergraduates."
award is granted initially for five years with continued NSF support
possible after a competitive review. The new centers also will
seek support from state government and private industry.
NSF award to U.Va.'s Materials
Science Department, which is ranked 21st in the country in
the most recent U.S. News & World Report study, provides a firm
foundation on which the Engineering School plans to build. The
school is planning to raise $14 million in new funding to construct
a building to house the new center, according to Miksad. As currently
envisioned, the new structure will rise three stories high and
cover 40,000 square feet, linking two existing buildings, materials
science and engineering, and the other for chemical engineering.
attributed U.Va.'s success in winning the materials research grant
to an interdisciplinary team effort, with important contributions
from John Bean, professor of electrical engineering; James Groves,
Robert A. Johnson, Gary Shiflet and Haydn Wadley, professors of
materials science and engineering; Joe Poon, professor of physics;
and Carolyn Vallas, director of the Engineering School's Office
of Minority Programs.
from IBM Research also played a central role in securing the grant,
to the NSF, the new centers' mission is to work closely with industry
to identify and address key obstacles to future materials development.
Much of the work takes place at the nanoscale level -- about 1,000th
the width of a human hair -- which requires specialized equipment
and expertise to create new properties with the potential to revolutionize
consumer and industrial products.
new grant will support investigations into guided growth processes
of semiconductor surfaces. Through the Center for Nanoscopic Design,
researchers will explore the assembly of highly perfected nanoscale
structures. Applications include quantum dot electronics, biological
templating and nanoscale control of electrochemical reactions.
and academic partners are closely integrated into the research
plan. The educational outreach program emphasizes students at
smaller universities and community colleges in the Commonwealth.
"The products of modern materials research impact our economy
and our everyday lives," said Thomas Weber, director of NSF's
Division of Materials Research. "The centers address fundamental
science and engineering problems in the creation of new materials.
They also provide students a highly interdisciplinary education
that is prized by potential employers in industry, academia and
In addition to the center at U.Va., the three other new centers
will be located at the California Institute of Technology, the
University of Oklahoma/University of Arkansas and Pennsylvania
State University. The NSF will invest $24 million in the centers
over five years.
currently supports 29 materials research centers with a total
annual investment of $52.5 million.