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NSF Interdisciplinary Program Takes on Critical National Research Priorities


The National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program announces 18 new awards to develop transformative interdisciplinary research and training programs for Ph.D. students at institutions across the country. Among the new principal investigators is Thomas Cech, a University of Colorado, Boulder, professor and winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry. In addition to the 123 institutions that have hosted an IGERT to date, the program welcomes five new institutions: Tulane University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Connecticut, West Virginia University and the University of Vermont.

In keeping with the IGERT program’s community-driven, cutting-edge research at the interfaces of disciplines, this year’s awards tackle critical national priority research areas that require interdisciplinary approaches. From Big Data to biofabrication, advanced manufacturing to nanotechnology, energy to sustainability, 18 IGERT PIs, hundreds of faculty, and more than 400 Ph.D. students will collaborate across disciplines to solve the world’s toughest research problems.

Complementary projects at Penn State and Columbia University will investigate the technical, social, legal and ethical considerations associated with the world’s growing collection of data. Professor of Computer Science Julia Hirschberg at Columbia is bringing together an impressive group of researchers to better extract knowledge and information from text, audio and video data. At Penn State, Professor of Political Science Burt Monroe and colleagues are aiming to understand the social contexts and behaviors behind collected data, and advance social science research, by developing the next generation of researchers with technical and theoretical expertise.

At Purdue University, PI Carol Handwerker and her team of engineers, physical scientists and social scientists, are aiming to solve the greatest challenges in creating sustainable electronics. With the United Nations estimating that e-waste will grow globally by 40 million tons each year, the IGERT team hopes to partner with industry to produce talented and capable leaders to holistically approach a sustainable life-cycle process in the manufacturing, shipping, consumption and disposal of computers, mobile devices and appliances.

The complete list of awards, primary institutions, and PI are as follows:

Award Number Title Principal Investigator Organization
1144388 IGERT: Smart Grids – Technology, Human Behavior and Policy Marshall, Jeffrey University of Vermont & State Agricultural College
1144399 IGERT: Language plasticity – Genes, Brain, Cognition and Computation Magnuson, James University of Connecticut
1144591 IGERT: Soft Material Robotics Trimmer, Barry Tufts University
1144616 IGERT: Solar Utilization Network (SUN) Vermaas, Willem Arizona State University
1144635 IGERT: Water SENSE – Water Social, Engineering, and Natural Sciences Engagement Yates, Marylynn University of California-Riverside
1144646 IGERT: Bioinnovation through the development of novel biological delivery technologies Gaver, Donald Tulane University
1144676 IGERT: REN@WVU – Research and Education in Nanotoxicology at West Virginia University Leslie-Pelecky, Diandra West Virginia University Research Corporation
1144726 IGERT: Systems Biology of Cells in Engineered Environments (SBE2) Lee, Kelvin University of Delaware
1144752 IGERT: Novel ecosystems, rapid change, and no-analog conditions: the future of biodiversity conservation in human-dominated landscapes Radeloff, Volker University of Wisconsin-Madison
1144804 IGERT: Training Innovative Leaders in Biofabrication Camesano, Terri Worcester Polytechnic Institute
1144807 IGERT: Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology Program Cech, Thomas University of Colorado at Boulder
1144843 IGERT: Global Traineeship in Sustainable Electronics Handwerker, Carol Purdue University
1144854 IGERT: From Data to Solutions: A New PhD Program in Transformational Data & Information Sciences Research and Innovation Hirschberg, Julia Columbia University
1144860 IGERT: Big Data Social Science – An Integrative Education and Research Program in Social Data Analytics Monroe, Burt Pennsylvania State Univ University Park
1144901 IGERT: Biophotonics Across Energy, Space, and Time (BEST) Venugopalan, Vasan University of California-Irvine
1144885 IGERT: Systems Approach to Green Energy (SAGE) Vulpe, Christopher University of California, Berkeley
1144584 IGERT: Interdisciplinary Research Training in Rehabilitation Engineering Cooper, Rory University of Pittsburgh
1144423 IGERT: Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change (A2C2) Saros, Jasmine University of Maine

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline, and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to establish new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries, and to engage students in understanding the processes by which research is translated to innovations for societal benefit.