NSF Renews Support with $21.6 Million for LRSM
The National Science Foundation has awarded a six-year, $21.6 million grant to the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) to be matched by approximately $2.1 million in support from Penn. LRSM’s $21.6 million share ranks first among 13 centers nationwide receiving $152 million NSF support as part of its Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program.
LRSM supports interdisciplinary research of scientists from the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Medicine. Their work encompasses new materials, from nanotechnology to the so-called “soft matter” inspired by biology. Their research especially targets new advanced materials with potential for applications in diverse areas such as energy transduction, electronics, sensors and medicine.
“The LRSM is part of our nation’s investment in fundamental research. This is fundamental science, for the long-term good,” said Dr. Michael Klein, LRSM director and professor of chemistry. “The study of quantum dots or soft matter might seem esoteric, but you can trace a long trail of innovation from such work in our laboratory to medical and technological applications.”
LRSM was established in 1960 as one of the nation’s first three interdisciplinary materials research centers, and was one of the first to be funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense. In 1972 funding was taken over by the NSF.
“It was here in the mid-1970s that Dr. Alan MacDiarmid began work on conducting polymers that eventually won him a share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,” Dr. Klein said (Almanac October 17, 2000). “The consequences can already be seen in novel electronic gadgets for sale today.”
“Advanced materials are the hidden ‘stuff’ that enables the modern world to function,” said Lance Haworth, executive officer for NSF’s Division of Materials Research. “Fundamental research on materials is essential to the nation’s health, prosperity and welfare. New materials are key to a whole range of rapidly changing technologies such as energy, computers and communications, transportation and increasingly health- and medicine-related technologies as well.”
As part of its mission, the LRSM devotes about 10 percent of its grant to sustaining its efforts in education and community outreach. Over the years, the laboratory has built a successful partnership with regional schoolteachers and their students to instill an interest in scientific discovery.
The outreach extends to higher education as well, through programs that embrace undergraduate research experience and allow faculty from developing nations, such as Lesotho, to further their scientific expertise at LRSM. The LRSM also has a long-standing relationship with the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao through a Partnership for Research and Education in Materials. Each summer students and faculty from Puerto Rico come to campus to take part in research at LRSM.
Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 7, October 11, 2005