College News

Research center is set on funding for six years, thanks to grant

A National Science Foundation grant will provide funding for six years to the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).

Image By: Ben Golden

A $15.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation was recently awarded to a flagship UW-Madison interdisciplinary research center focused on material science.

The NSF grant will provide funding for six years to the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), the College of Engineering announced in a release. MRSEC is under the direction of the College of Engineering but is a collaboration between 30 faculty members representing nine different UW-Madison departments.

MRSEC’s current major focus is cultivating a better understanding of glass. It may seem like a conventional and familiar material, but according to Paul Boyles, a UW-Madison professor of materials science and engineering, it exists in many forms beyond windows and phone screens.

The funding’s six-year commitment allows for both flexibility and a deep pursuit of complex materials science questions. Nick Abbott, the director of MRSEC, said in the statement that the center’s current research “high risk, high-reward research.”

Beyond research, MRSEC also facilitates educational outreach with novice researchers and high school students. MRSEC creates and distributes educational kits to help teach basic materials science concepts in schools.

The funding will help MRSEC shift from providing physical kits to an emphasis on digital means of education, broadening the potential scope of the center’s impact.

Paul Evans, professor in materials science and engineering, said support from NSF “really goes a long way at UW-Madison.”

“[The support] has a significant and broad impact, and that impact is underpinned by the basic science happening at MRSEC,” Evans said. “The basic scientific research provides the foundation for highly valuable education and outreach activities.”

NSF also funds twenty other leading centers in the nation that conduct materials research and engage in education and community outreach. 

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