Nobel laureate, first-time institutions among 18 NSF IGERT awards for 2012
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.
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.