University of Southern California


NSF-19-578: Physics Frontiers Centers (PFC)

Slots:                                                     2, No more than two preliminary proposals may be submitted by any one institution. The same limitation applies to full proposals. Any one individual may be the Principal Investigator (PI) or co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) for only one preliminary proposal. The same limitation applies to full proposals. Individuals may be listed as participating senior investigators on more than one proposal.

Internal Deadline:                           Contact the Office of Research if interested.

LOI:                                                        Preliminary Proposal due: August 01, 2019

External Deadline:                          January 30, 2020 by invitation only

Award Information:                        Type:  Cooperative Agreement

Estimated Number of Awards: 3 to 5

Anticipated Amount: $5,000,000 to $8,000,000 in FY 2020, pending availability of funds and the quality of proposals received.

Submission Process:                     PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Office of Research Application Portal:


Materials to submit:

Link to Award:                        

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


The Physics Frontiers Centers (PFC) program supports university-based centers and institutes where the collective efforts of a larger group of individuals can enable transformational advances in the most promising research areas. The program is designed to foster major breakthroughs at the intellectual frontiers of physics by providing needed resources such as combinations of talents, skills, disciplines, and/or specialized infrastructure, not usually available to individual investigators or small groups, in an environment in which the collective efforts of the larger group can be shown to be seminal to promoting significant progress in the science and the education of students. Activities supported through the program are in all sub-fields of physics within the purview of the Division of Physics: atomic, molecular, optical, plasma, elementary particle, nuclear, particle astro-, gravitational, and biological physics. Interdisciplinary projects at the interface between these physics areas and other disciplines and physics sub-fields may also be considered, although the bulk of the effort must fall within one of those areas within the purview of the Division of Physics. The successful PFC activity will demonstrate: (1) the potential for a profound advance in physics; (2) creative, substantive activities aimed at enhancing education, diversity, and public outreach; (3) potential for broader impacts, e.g., impacts on other field(s) and benefits to society; (4) a synergy or value-added rationale that justifies a center- or institute-like approach.

The main characteristics of a PFC-supported unit are tailored by the Principal Investigators to most effectively address the chosen physics goals. Therefore, every unit will be different. Some may be centers; others may be institutes. Some may be stand-alone efforts; others may be intellectually-connected parts of a larger unit. Whatever the type of organization, it is expected that the PFC-supported unit will have some or all of the following characteristics of successful units of similar size and complexity in physics and other fields. In no particular order, these are: (1) combining talent, skills, or facilities required for a major advance in physics; (2) combining groups, departments, institutions, etc. required to make a major advance in physics; (3) providing critical mass or specialized infrastructure needed for an advance by the unit, and often the broader field; (4) providing the context and/or organization to bring together leaders and students to initiate work in a promising new area, a new interdisciplinary field, an important application, or a new facility of strategic importance to physics; (5) fostering field-wide exploration of frontier research within the community at large; (6) making available specialized infrastructure to others; and (7) creating innovative projects to promote education, the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in science, and public outreach using the center as a focal point.

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