With NSF funding, the two-state collaboration studies ultrafast physics

August 6, 2014

The National Science Foundation is awarding nearly $6 million to Nebraska and Kansas for collaborative research on ultrafast dynamics of atoms, molecules and nanostructures. The grant is one of three science and engineering regional consortia to receive funding totaling nearly $18 million for 2014-17 through NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Other consortia funded in NSF’s Aug. 6 announcement are Louisiana-Mississippi and Arkansas-Missouri partnerships.

According to the project proposal, physicists, chemists, and electrical engineers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas will work together to advance the imaging and control of how light interacts with matter. The work aims to benefit laser technology, solar energy capture, nanotechnology, and optogenetics (the neuroscientific study of genetically light-sensitized neurons).

This exciting new research on ultrafast processes in atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) science and engineering will contribute to technological advances and the development of a diverse STEM workforce, said NSF Program Officer Timothy Van Reken, Ph.D.

Nebraska will receive $2,999,994 for its work with the project. Fred Choobineh, Nebraska EPSCoR director and UNL’s Blackman Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and Anthony F. Starace, UNL George Holmes Distinguished Professor with the Department of Physics, will lead the Nebraska group’s work which begins this month.

In addition to the research, the consortium’s planned education, outreach, and workforce development activities will involve partnerships with small colleges in Nebraska and Kansas, summer workshops for high school physics teachers, and a variety of programs for students.

“With this federal support, the University of Nebraska will be in a position to do even more to serve the state through education, research and outreach. I’m especially excited about our plans to continue to work with teachers and students around the state to build a strong STEM workforce for Nebraska,” said NU Interim President Dr. James Linder. “We look forward to collaborating with our colleagues at the University of Kansas on this important work.”

“These consortia will spur technological innovations that drive economic growth and develop a diverse STEM-enabled workforce,” said Denise Barnes, head of NSF's EPSCoR program which issues these Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-2 grants.

EPSCoR was established by Congress to support science, mathematics and technology research, infrastructure, and education in states that receive disproportionately lower amounts of federal research funding. Since 1991, Nebraska has received more than $260 million from federal EPSCOR/IDeA programs.

For more information see http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?org=EPSC&cntn_id=132269&preview=false.