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Home > Press > University of Oregon receives major National Science Foundation grant

The $3.2 million grant expands workforce training in materials science
and nanoscience

University of Oregon receives major National Science Foundation grant

Posted on July 05, 2006

The University of Oregon has received a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will further unite Oregon universities with international technology companies.

The expanded collaboration will fund graduate studies in materials sciences, helping to accelerate the transition from student to scientist.

Funded by NSF's Integrative Graduate Education Research and Traineeship Program (IGERT), the new award builds on the University of Oregon Materials Science Institute's model internship program. This program is responsible for making the university a top-ten institution nationwide for the number of master's degrees awarded in chemistry.

Currently, the university program places doctoral- and master's-level students in industrial and academic settings for one-year internships where faculty work with site mentors to tailor students' internships for maximum impact. This grant will increase the number of participating-doctoral students and will extend the internship program to doctoral candidates at Oregon State University (OSU) and Portland State University (PSU).

Managed by the University of Oregon, the expanded program includes IGERT sponsorship of students at OSU and PSU and allows placements at any of the participating universities as well as with additional industry partners. The program's other partners include: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), the Engineering & Technology Industry Council (ETIC), Hewlett Packard Co., Invitrogen, LSI Logic Corp., Intel Corp., Hynix Semiconductor America, Triquint Semiconductor, the FEI Company, Dynea and Bend Research Inc.

The new program makes the Oregon universities even stronger by further uniting academia and industry, said David Johnson, chemistry professor at the University of Oregon, and the grant's co-principal investigator.

Johnson collaborated on the proposal with a strong team of chemistry and physics faculty members in the Materials Science Institute, including Dave Tyler, Bruce Branchaud, Jim Hutchison, Mike Haley, Darren Johnson and Richard Taylor.

"The program resulting from this collaboration enhances graduate education by providing students with experiences that accelerate the transition from classroom learner to active, innovative and independent-thinking scientist," Johnson said. "As just one aspect of our high-tech extension service, the University of Oregon has placed students for more than five years in industrial research settings where they have been recognized as skilled problem solvers and high level performers. The IGERT award allows us to expand this program to involve other universities and industry partners."

The grant benefits not just the University of Oregon, but the entire state, similar to the way ONAMI does, said OSU Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Doug Keszler, the grant's co-principal investigator.

"The IGERT award brings our universities even closer together by placing students in university research laboratories on other campuses while maintaining a strong connection with their home institutions," Keszler said. "It builds on the ONAMI concept and will help all of us keep Oregon's best students and attract leading advanced students to the state because of the access to faculty on three campuses and the Silicon Forest."

Students will now have an even better opportunity to take advantage of the collaboration among Oregon's leading specialists, said John Carruthers, distinguished professor of physics at Portland State University.

"Faculty are already collaborating across campuses to advance nano and microtechnology research," said Carruthers. "The IGERT award enhances the education and training of participating graduate students by giving them with opportunities to work in faculty laboratories at any of our Oregon institutions."

The key innovation in this program is students participating in the six- to nine-month internships at Oregon technology firms. This prepares them for future employment. About two-dozen industrial partners in the state have committed their active support to the IGERT program with time, internship opportunities and donations, which have resulted in over $1 million in additional direct support from ONAMI and ETIC. "Oregon is home to the ninth-largest technology economy in the U.S.- much of it rooted in materials sciences, semiconductors, and nano-tech/nano instrumentation. The IGERT collaboration brings together companies, researchers and academics to innovate in a multi- university model that will help Oregon compete on a global scale," said Dave Chen, a partner with OVP Venture Partners, chair of ONAMI and chair of Oregon InC.

"This award is testimony to the outstanding research, committed faculty leadership and inter-institutional collaboration that exists in Oregon and the ONAMI community," said Skip Rung, executive director of ONAMI. "At a time when the U.S. is facing unprecedented competitive challenge, it is truly innovative graduate student programs like this which will provide the top tier of scientific and organizational leadership we urgently need."

Begun in 1997, IGERT is a federal program that was developed to fund new and innovative models for graduate education with an emphasis on collaborative and interdisciplinary research.


Source: Dave Johnson, professor of chemistry, University of Oregon, (541) 346-4612

Pauline Austin
(541) 346-3129

Copyright University of Oregon

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