The National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program has made eight awards, totaling $42 million, aimed at fostering research collaborations among investigators and institutions across 12 states.
These eight Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-2 (RII Track-2) awards to consortia of states are expected to build collaborations that improve the research capabilities of EPSCoR jurisdictions, making them competitive at the national and international level.
The RII Track-2 awards provide researchers significant opportunities to pursue national priorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, while also requiring award recipients to develop a STEM workforce–particularly early career faculty–that can sustain research development.
“These awards enhance the ability of EPSCoR jurisdictions to produce discoveries and foster learning for their STEM workforces,” said Denise Barnes, head of NSF’s EPSCoR program. “Through collaboration, these jurisdictions will enhance their science and engineering capabilities, allowing them to produce groundbreaking research and the means to sustain competitiveness.”
The project names, leading institutions, funding totals and jurisdictions included in the consortia that received awards are provided below.
Innovative, Broadly Accessible Tools for Brain Imaging, Decoding, and Modulation
Institution: University of Rhode Island | Budget: $6 million
The project involves three states: Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Kentucky. The participants will form an interdisciplinary consortium to develop innovative and broadly accessible brain imaging and modulation technologies and tools for acquiring fundamental insight into how the nervous system functions in health and disease. The Rhode Island team will focus on hardware development while the Kentucky and Oklahoma teams will develop algorithms and explore applications that could benefit from the integrated systems developed by the project.
Developmental Chronnecto-Genomics (Dev-CoG): A Next Generation Framework for Quantifying Brain Dynamics and Related Genetic Factors in Childhood
Institution: The Mind Research Network | Budget: $5.9 million
The project involves three states: New Mexico (where the MIND Research Network is based), Louisiana and Nebraska. Researchers will use multiple imaging methods to gather data on the development of the human brain and develop novel mathematical algorithms for modeling and data analysis. The overarching goal is to understand the rapid development of human brain connectivity that occurs during late childhood and early adolescence.
Feeding and Powering the World – Capturing Sunlight to Split Water and Generate Fertilizer and Fuels
Institution: University of Mississippi | Budget: $6 million
The project involves three states: Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It aims to develop low-cost, high-efficient methods and devices that integrate water splitting by sunlight to produce hydrogen and to reduce carbon dioxide and ammonia to generate fuels and fertilizers. The project’s research focus is at the nexus of water-energy-food. The research is highly desirable for developing sustainable fuel and synthetic fertilizer technologies.
Unmanned Aircraft System for Atmospheric Physics
Institution: Oklahoma State University | Budget: $6 million
The project involves three states: Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kentucky. The research team will study physics in the Earth’s lower atmospheric boundary layer using small, easy-to-deploy unmanned airborne systems (UAS). Research topics include meteorological convection, storm-scale microphysics, airborne sensing of soil hydrology, infrasonic sensing of environmental phenomena, and local-scale temporal and spatial climate variation. The research team will integrate cooperative control of unmanned aircraft, with expected outcomes including complete UAS system packages suitable for measuring wind, atmospheric chemistry, soil moisture, and thermodynamic parameters.
Bridging Cognitive Science and Neuroscience Using Innovative Imaging Technologies
Institution: Medical University of South Carolina | Budget: $4 million
The project involves two states: South Carolina and Alabama. The research will develop new instrumentation for imaging brain activity in living organisms, with the goal of developing precise ways of measuring the relationship between neural events and increased blood flow that improve on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Measuring these brain activities will help determine the extent of neurovascular coupling and provide a description of the micro-circuitry, which represents a critical and necessary step in understanding the full complexity of the brain.
Strengthening the scientific basis for making decisions about dams: Multi-scale, coupled-systems research on ecological, social, and economic trade-offs
Institution: University of New Hampshire | Budget: $6 million
The project involves three states: New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island. The research team will develop and test a framework for engaging stakeholders in understanding how the multiple functions of dams are impacted by the outcomes of management decisions. The project will address two overarching and interrelated questions: 1) What are the major trade-offs, thresholds, and feedbacks among ecosystem services for different dam management options? and 2) How does collaborative knowledge production influence scientific understanding about social ecological systems related to dams, and the use of science in dam decision making?
Low-Cost, Efficient Next-Generation Solar Cells for the Coming Clean Energy Revolution
Institution: Brown University | Budget: $4 million
The project involves two states: Rhode Island and Nebraska. Researchers will focus on the development of new kinds of solar cells containing crystalline perovskites grown from solutions. The project includes materials research to understand structural, electrical, and optical properties of perovskites, development of non-toxic perovskite materials for use in solar cells, experimentation to enhance power conversion efficiency, and exploration of scale-up processes for low-cost, high-efficiency perovskite solar cells.
Catalysis for Renewables: Applications, Fundamentals and Technologies (CRAFT)
Institution: University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. | Budget: $4 million
The project involves two states: Kansas and South Carolina. The research aims to develop novel catalysts and technologies for converting biomass into chemical and fuel intermediates. The focus will be on understanding the fundamental catalytic mechanisms underlying the controlled reconstruction of biomass feedstocks to make renewable chemicals and fuels. The collaboration combines expertise in catalyst synthesis with advanced characterization and computational work, using model and real biomass feedstocks, to develop practically viable catalysts for making targeted products.
EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill the foundation’s mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. Twenty-five states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam are currently eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding. Through this program, NSF establishes regional partnerships with government, higher education, and industry that effect lasting improvements in a state’s or territory’s research infrastructure and research and development capacity, and hence, its academic competitiveness.