University of Southern California


NSF-19-517: Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC)

Slots:                                         1

Only one MRSEC preliminary proposal may be submitted by any one organization as the lead institution in this competition. An institution proposing research in several groups should submit a single MRSEC proposal with multiple Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs). A MRSEC proposal must contain a minimum of 2 IRGs and a maximum of 3 IRGs. The IRGs in a center may be thematically related, or they may address different aspects of materials science typically supported by DMR. A single center at an organization allows efficient usage of resources, including common infrastructure, and better coordination of education and other activities of the center.

Institutions that were awarded a MRSEC in the FY 2017 competition as the lead institution are not eligible to submit a MRSEC proposal as a lead institution in this competition.

MRSEC full proposals may be submitted by invitation only.

Internal Deadline:                            Contact the Office of Research if interested.

LOI:                                                        Preliminary Proposal due June 24, 2019                 

External Deadline:                          November 26, 2019

Award Information:                        Type:  Cooperative Agreement

Estimated Number of Awards: 8 to 10

Anticipated Amount: The number of MRSEC awards will depend on the quality of the proposals and available funds. An estimate of $31.5M will be available for the FY 2020 competition for funding approximately 8 to 10 MRSEC awards.

Link to Award:                        

Who May Serve as PI:                    There are no restrictions or limits.


The MRSECs support materials research infrastructure in the United States, promote active collaboration between universities and other sectors, including industry and international organizations, and contribute to the development of a national network of university-based centers in materials research, education, and facilities. A MRSEC may be located at a single institution, or may involve multiple institutions in partnership, and is composed of up to three Interdisciplinary Research Groups, IRGs, each addressing a fundamental materials science topic aligned with the Division of Materials Research, DMR.

A few additional strategic research areas of DMR interest have also been identified:


A MRSEC may encompass two to three interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs). Each IRG involves several faculty members (typically from a minimum of 6 to a maximum of 10 to 12) addressing a major topic or area, in which sustained support for interactive effort by the several participants of complementary backgrounds, skills, and knowledge is critical to progress. The IRGs in a center may be thematically related, or they may address different aspects of materials research. The center as a whole is expected to be more than the sum of its IRGs, with the synergy arising from its common infrastructure, shared facilities, education and outreach activities, etc.


MRSECs incorporate the following activities to an extent consistent with the size and vision of the center:


Each MRSEC has the responsibility to manage and evaluate its own operation with respect to program administration, planning, content and direction. NSF support is intended to promote optimal use of university resources and capabilities, and to provide maximum flexibility in setting research directions, developing cooperative activities with other organizations, and responding quickly and effectively to new opportunities in materials research and education that are important to the nation’s needs and technology base.


A MRSEC may address any area of research supported by the NSF Division of Materials Research which include 8 programs (known as Topical Materials Research Programs, TMRP): Biomaterials (BMAT), Ceramics (CER), Condensed Matter Physics (CMP), Condensed Matter and Materials Theory (CMMT), Electronic and Photonic Materials (EPM), Metals and Metallic Nanostructures (MMN), Polymers (POL), and Solid State and Materials Chemistry (SSMC). For a detailed description of the research supported by the 8 TMRP visit IRGs not well aligned with Division of Materials Research (DMR) supported research will not be reviewed. Proposers are strongly encouraged to contact the Program Director listed in this solicitation to ascertain that the planned research fits the scope of the DMR role in the suggested topical areas. IRGs not appropriate for consideration by DMR may be returned without review.


In addition to research excellence, these centers provide the infrastructure of equipment, education and outreach needed to ensure that the program as a whole meets its objectives and provides for effective coordination within and beyond the center community. Centers are required to contribute to the network addressing common problems and applications. Center shared experimental and computational facilities constitute the Materials Research Facility Network, a network of facilities that help to maintain and advance materials research infrastructure in the United States. More information about the network may be found at

Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for updates and other announcements.