NSF-19-517: Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC)
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: February 22, 2019, noon PT
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: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2019/nsf19517/nsf19517.htm
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:
- Synthetic Materials Biology: in such an effort biologists and system engineers work with materials scientists to identify materials challenges hindering advancements of Synthetic Biology, as well as to generate new Synthetic Biology approaches to materials development i.e., “Materials Biology”;
- Structural Materials under Extreme Conditions: this effort addresses fundamental challenges in ceramic, metallic, and polymeric materials and their composites for applications under extreme conditions;
- Recyclable Plastics and Alternative Materials for Sustainable Development: these efforts could include the development of intrinsically recyclable polymers, a better understanding of mechanical properties of recycled plastic products, strategies to improve the properties of recycled plastics, and materials alternatives for plastics.
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:
- Academic institution-based multidisciplinary materials research of the highest quality: each IRG must have a well-integrated, interdisciplinary research program distinguished by intellectual excellence and driven by a clear vision that could lead to fundamental advances, new discoveries, and/or technological developments of national and international significance. Each IRG must show clear benefits of an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to address a major materials topic or area and the linkages between researchers within the IRG.
- Seed funding: NSF intends to provide flexibility for the center to respond quickly and effectively to new opportunities, and pursue high risk/high impact and transformative research. These may include (but are not limited to): seed support for faculty to further add or broaden existing efforts; emerging areas of interdisciplinary research; programs to link the university effort in materials with industry, national laboratories, and other sectors; the development of tools and cyber infrastructure for remote access to instrumentation; and innovative interdisciplinary educational ventures. Seed funding through the center is not intended to provide a substitute for NSF individual investigator funding. Seed funding mechanisms and impact to the MRSEC is evaluated at post-award Site Visits of the MRSECs.
- Promotion of the integration of research and education, and development of effective education/outreach activities that are consistent with the center size, leverage participant expertise and interest, and address local and national needs. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) are required; see https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5517 for specifics.
- A MRSEC should pursue activities with proven impacts in improving scientific education. It may also experiment with novel approaches as appropriate.
- Fostering increased participation in materials research and education of members of underrepresented groups in science and engineering (e.g., women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities) at all academic levels. A center is strongly encouraged to develop cooperative programs with organization(s) serving predominantly underrepresented groups in science and engineering and/or predominantly undergraduate institutions.
- Development of shared experimental and computational facilities, properly staffed, equipped and maintained, and accessible to users from the center, the broader university community, and other organizations. A goal is to maintain the long-term health of the materials research infrastructure in the United States and contribute to a national network of materials research facilities.
- Promotion of partnerships by supporting a center’s active cooperation with industry and international organizations, and other sectors, such as national laboratories, non-profit organizations, and state and local governments, in order to stimulate and facilitate knowledge transfer among the participants and strengthen the links between university-based research and its application.
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 https://www.nsf.gov/materials. 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 http://www.mrfn.org.
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