Penn State receives two awards for materials research and education

September 14, 2015

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced six Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) awards this year -- two of them involving Penn State University. The awards are designed to improve materials-science research by increasing diverse perspectives within the field. The PREM program joins NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers with colleges and universities that serve minority populations. In one of the awarded collaborations, Penn State's Center for Nanoscale Science -- an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center -- will partner with North Carolina Central University, and in another the Penn State Center for Nanoscale Science will partner with California State University, Los Angeles.

"We look forward eagerly to the growth and development of these partnerships and the scientific interchange with students, faculty, and staff from North Carolina Central University and Cal State L. A.," said Vincent Crespi, Distinguished Professor of Physics, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science at Penn State. PREM awards couple the expertise of NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers at universities with minority-serving colleges and universities to involve those students in some of the nation's preeminent materials-research programs. "Cutting edge research benefits critically from the new ideas that come from the incorporation of multiple perspectives, and the expansion of knowledge and technical capability in the U.S. benefits greatly when we mobilize all of our nation’s diverse talent," Crespi said.

In Penn State's partnership with North Carolina Central University, the Penn State Center for Nanoscale Science will collaborate with NCCU to increase the participation in materials science of underrepresented minority-heritage students through a peer-to-peer "PENNpal" mentoring program. NCCU will use the new class of materials that Penn State has developed for energy conversion and conservation as a base for focusing on precise magnetic properties for graphene and similar 2-D materials.

Penn State's partnership with California State University, Los Angeles has the key goals of establishing a master-of-science degree program in materials science at Cal State L.A. and providing a bridge structure for students to continue on to Ph.D. studies at Penn State or other leading institutions, or to seek employment after their college graduation. This partnership also will manage a summer research experience for academically talented students from four high schools where enrollment of Hispanic-heritage students is more than 95 percent. Students in this program will work to use discoveries in materials science that are important for solving current societal problems.

The PREM awards aim to broaden participation and to enhance diversity in materials research and education by stimulating formal, long-term, multi-investigator, collaborative research and education partnerships. "The PREM program is first and foremost a competitive research award that also has elements of a mentoring venture, a capacity-building program and a fairly clever support network all wrapped up together," said Linda Sapochak, acting director for NSF's Division of Materials Research. "Since we started making these awards formally in 2004, we've seen groups make important discoveries, apply for patents -- even start up a company."

More information about the National Science Foundation Partnership for Research and Education in Materials is online at

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Last Updated September 16, 2015