National Science Foundation Awards Rutgers $7.6 Million for Sustainable Energy Development, Graduate Education

National Science Foundation Awards Rutgers $7.6 Million for Sustainable Energy Development, Graduate Education

Fellowships address clean, renewable energy using biotechnology and nanotechnology; involve collaboration with institutions worldwide

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Rutgers University two grants worth $6.4 million
to fund graduate research in clean and sustainable energy resources using
biotechnology and nanotechnology. The foundation also has awarded the
university up to $1.25 million to extend practices developed under earlier NSF
graduate research grants. These will benefit Rutgers
undergraduate and graduate students throughout the science, technology,
engineering and mathematics fields.

The grants for clean and sustainable energy research are
funded under the NSF’s five-year Integrative Graduate Education and Research
Traineeship (IGERT) program, which supports scientists and engineers pursuing
doctorates in fields that cross academic disciplines and have broad societal
impact. IGERT programs also involve collaboration with other institutions and
support training for underrepresented minorities to enhance diversity in the
science and engineering workforce.

Michael Pazzani, vice president for Research and Graduate
and Professional Education said the awards are the fifth and sixth IGERT grants
NSF has awarded Rutgers over the past six
years. “Rutgers is one of few universities to
receive two IGERT grants in 2009,” he said.

Nanotechnology for clean energy generation and storage

Rutgers will collaborate with Princeton
University to apply nanotechnology to
clean energy generation and storage and conduct an educational exchange program
between the U.S. and Africa. The grant is valued at up to $3.2 million over
five years.

“Nanotechnology is a burgeoning field of science and
engineering that involves materials and structures thousands of times smaller
than the width of a human hair,” said Manish
Chhowalla, professor of materials science and engineering and
the grant’s principal investigator. He added that nanotechnology can help boost
the output and efficiency of solar cells, hydrogen fuel cells and batteries so
they can provide clean and abundant energy for transportation, industries and
homes.

Graduate students supported by IGERT fellowships will study
policy and economic issues related to clean energy development through the
Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers and the
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
Students will also participate in internships and exchanges with African
universities and institutions through Princeton’s
US-Africa Materials Institute.

Renewable and sustainable fuels

Rutgers will focus on replacing environmentally harmful
fossil fuels with renewable, economically sustainable fuels in collaboration
with universities in the U.S.,
Brazil, China and South Africa. The grant is valued
at up to $3.2 million over five years.

“The development of biofuels and synfuels will require
strategies adaptable to locations worldwide with diverse climates and
geopolitical structures,” said Eric Lam, the grant’s principal investigator and
director of the Rutgers
Biotechnology Center
for Agriculture and the Environment. Lam, who is also a professor of plant
biology and pathology, said the program will prepare experts to shape America’s
future energy economy and policy by providing education in biotechnology,
chemistry, ecology, engineering and energy policy along with real-world
experience in government and industry.

Lam and his colleagues will collaborate with University of Puerto Rico
and two historically black universities, Virginia
Union University
and Delaware State University.
Extending ties established by the Rutgers Energy Institute, the project also
will involve Peking University and Academia Sinica Guangxi in China; the
University of Sao Paulo in Brazil; and, in South Africa, the University of the
Witwatersrand.

Strengthening graduate study in science, technology,
engineering, math

The third grant is funded under a new NSF initiative to
strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Rutgers
will use the five-year NSF Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3)
grant to extend its IGERT curricula and practices to other graduate programs
and to undergraduate research supported by the Aresty Research
Center for
Undergraduates.

The I3 grant, valued at up to $1.25 million, will help Rutgers draw on the experience and practices of its four
established IGERT programs to enhance all graduate programs in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics. Grant funding also will be used to
prepare students for higher education through undergraduate research
experiences and graduate school transition programs.

“Training a new generation of scientists is a widely
recognized national need,” said Philip Furmanski, the grant’s principal
investigator and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Rutgers. “This grant will support a new Graduate
Innovation and Integration
Center that will address
student preparedness for interdisciplinary endeavors while increasing diversity
among our graduate student population.”

The new center will support and draw upon existing programs
that provide summer research experiences for undergraduates and that recruit
and mentor students from diverse backgrounds.

Media Contact: Carl Blesch
732-932-7084 x616
E-mail: cblesch@ur.rutgers.edu