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September 13th, 2011

NSF doubles its investment in Yale-Southern Conn. State University MRSEC enterprise

Published on September 13th, 2011 | By: Eileen De Guire

Custom-built oxide molecular beam epitaxy system at Yale. Credit: CRISP.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center grant of $13 million to a Yale University-Southern Connecticut State University joint collaboration. The new MRSEC will double the capacity of the universities’ already established Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena. CRISP was established in 2005 with a $7.5 million NSF grant.

Most of the dollars will stay on the Yale side, but SCSU’s share amounting to $1,763,000 is the largest research grant the school has ever received. SCSU received $1,484,000 of the 2005 $7.5 million grant.

CRISP is a three-pronged effort: Two are related to research and one to education and outreach.

The Yale press release states the CRISP mission is to develop “novel atomically engineered materials and processes based on a wide variety of materials and materials combinations that range from amorphous metals to artificially structured crystalline oxide heterostructures.” Applications cited include “computation, communication energy and medical applications.”

The Atomic Scale Design, Control and Characterization of Oxide Structures Interdisciplinary Research Group will “investigate novel chemical, electronic and magnetic properties that emerge at interfaces between oxides,” and will work toward “understanding and manipulating the interactions between electrons that give rise to the novel properties.”

The Multi-Scale Surface Engineering with Metallic Glasses IRG will further the “capabilities developed at Yale that allow metals to be formed through simple methods, much like those used for plastics.” Metallic glasses can be processed like plastics, but have the mechanical strength of conventional metals. The group is investigating ways to functionalize metallic surfaces for diverse applications from medical implants to fuel cells.

The Center has established collaborative partnerships with a number of research organizations including Argonne, Brookhaven and Oak Ridge National Labs, plus Georgia Tech, IBM, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany) and PX Group (Switzerland).

Yale-sponsored community outreach science fair. Yale and Southern Connecticut State University are collaborators on a $13 million, NSF-funded research and community outreach grant. Credit: Michael Marsland/Yale University.

Yale-sponsored community outreach science fair. Yale and Southern Connecticut State University are collaborators on a $13 million, NSF-funded research and community outreach grant. Credit: Michael Marsland/Yale University.

The education outreach effort is a significant component of CRISP and the new MRSEC, and in this piece, SCSU appears to be the lead partner. SCSU is a predominantly undergraduate university with a strong tradition of education training, and it is also located in New Haven, Conn. The CRISP director of education is SCSU professor and physics department chair, Christine Broadbridge.

According to the SCSU press release, the grant provides the opportunity “to work even more closely with the New Haven School District to encourage students to consider the math and science fields. Workshops offered by CRISP have sought to improve the professional development of science teachers in the area during the last six years.”

The first six years of outreach into the New Haven public schools and community included programs for K-12 students and parents, teachers, the general public and undergraduates (REU). CRISP led the Connecticut Outreach Coalition of the Making Stuff project that culminated in the provision of regional public outreach events in materials science that were timed to coincide with the PBS Nova broadcast in early 2011 of Making Stuff with David Pogue.


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