Multidisciplinary, collaborative defense research team to be led by Penn State

March 04, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Leading a collaborative frontier research team will be the focus of a nine-year, $54 million potential cooperative agreement from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) new Interaction of Ionizing Radiation with Matter University Research Alliance program (IIRM-URA). The multidisciplinary, multi-organization team will be led by Penn State.

The Penn State team itself includes program manager Douglas Wolfe, from the Applied Research Laboratory, along with researchers and contributors from the departments of Nuclear Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Science and Mechanics, and Materials Science and Engineering. The overall project will consist of three phases, beginning with a five-year research phase.

Under this agreement, Penn State will create a cooperation-based framework fostering a matrixed environment where leading research scientists and engineers from across the United States and Europe work together to create advances in three research areas (RA):

  • RA1:  Understanding material-radiation interaction
  • RA2: Developing advances in devices and device integration
  • RA3: Enhancing nuclear survivability and response

Working towards these goals will address DTRA’s mission to identify, adopt and develop revolutionary breakthroughs that will counter the nuclear and radiological threats of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Penn State will lead a team of 12 nationally recognized universities and 10 partner institutions, national laboratories, and industrial companies. Additional IIRM-URA members include: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and the University of Florida. These will all serve as Lead Research Area Organizations. Principal Investigators and researchers from eight other academic institutions also will join the alliance as non-permanent members across the three RAs within the IIRM-URA:

  • Brigham Young University
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Northwestern University
  • FISK University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Air Force Institute of Technology
  • United States Military Academy at West Point

Academic alliance members will execute research projects with the IIRM-URA collaborators, which currently include eight institutions from various government laboratories and industry:

  • Sandia National Laboratory
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Naval Research Laboratory
  • H3D Inc.
  • Radiation Monitoring Devices Inc.

Contributions from physicists, chemists, materials scientists, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and nuclear engineers will be required to successfully conduct this research. Therefore, every IIRM-URA project will involve multidisciplinary cooperation from diverse scientific backgrounds.

Inherent in IIRM-URA's goals and activities will be to bring a new perspective to DTRA activities and develop a pipeline of future researchers, engineers, scientists, and professionals. Vital aspects of this collaboration will be the creation of Student Pipeline programs, establishment of Young Investigator Awards, and providing seed grants that will continue and expand this important body of work.   

This cooperative agreement is distinguished from a grant in that it provides for substantial involvement between DTRA, the funding agency, and the Penn State team. Over the course of the nine-year, strategic investment in basic research through the IIRM-URA, DTRA and Penn State will work together to train the next-generation workforce while advancing fundamental knowledge and understanding of the sciences, promoting university research to support WMD threat reduction, and facilitating the transition of research that enables new capabilities for the warfighter.

Specifically, the Penn State–led IIRM-URA will work collaboratively with DTRA Technical Points of Contact to develop advantageous research programs and identify areas of continuous collaboration through technical exchanges, site visits, student development, outreach opportunities, and more, that will strengthen and improve the IIRM-URA research and its relevance to DTRA and the Department of Defense research community.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 17, 2020