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NSF grant to enhance research at Gallaudet, other universities

December 11, 2012
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Gallaudet’s research in chemistry and physics will be greatly enhanced by a grant recently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF#1205608). The project is called “Partnership in Reduced Dimensional Materials (PRDM),” and includes nanotechnology-related research at Gallaudet and summer undergraduate research opportunities at Howard and Cornell universities.

Nanotechnology is the study of applications of materials with sizes less than 100 nanometers–essentially the study of the “super small.” (A nanometer is one billion times smaller than a meter). This branch of science holds almost unlimited potential for applications, ranging from new cancer treatment drugs to the design of smarter and smaller electronic devices, machines, and materials. The new materials also have been used in construction and paint production.

Howard University is the lead institution on the grant, while Cornell University, Prince George’s Community College, and Gallaudet University are collaborators. “The acquisition of this grant will further strengthen our relationship with Howard University, open new collaborations with Cornell University, and support faculty research at Gallaudet, while at the same time opening up more internship opportunities for Gallaudet students–both at our university and at the participating institutions,” said Dr. Paul Sabila, an associate professor in the Chemistry and Physics Program, and Gallaudet’s principal investigator for the project. “The project will provide internship opportunities at Gallaudet during the academic year and at Howard and/or Cornell during the summer semesters. These internship skills are important for making our students more competitive and better prepared for the next step of their careers after Gallaudet-the job market and graduate school.”

Application materials for academic year 2012-2013 research at Gallaudet will be provided to students in the Chemistry and Physics Program in the Department of Science, Technology, and Mathematics (DSTM) at Gallaudet until February 8. Interested students should contact both Sabila and Dr. Charlene Sorensen, DSTM professor and co-principle investigator to discuss their applications and research options. Sabila’s area of expertise is organic synthesis and will be involved in the synthesis of metal-organic materials that will be used as feedstock for synthesis of new nanomaterials, with possible applications in the electronic industry. Sorensen’s area of expertise is physical chemistry, and her research will involve computational studies of the properties and structures of various nanomaterials.

Toward the end of spring 2013, application materials will be provided for paid summer internship positions in nanotechnology research at Howard and Cornell. The student interns will be provided with broader exposure to research facilities and the opportunity to work with faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students. This experience will provide them with research skills critical for employment and to pursue graduate studies.

As part of this award, a NanoExpress van (a mobile nanotechnology laboratory) visited Gallaudet in early fall. Sabila said more of these visits to Gallaudet are being planned, as well as general science and nanotechnology presentations by faculty and graduate students from Howard and Cornell universities that will be open to the university community and to the public.

“Our goal is also to partner with the outside world and grow stronger ties between science research and deaf communities,” said Sabila. “This in turn will strengthen the quality of research and undergraduate programs at Gallaudet, making it more attractive to new students.” The Gallaudet researchers hope that projects like this will help in the long term by reversing the underrepresentation of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in science and technology careers.

At the same time, another grant (NSF #0611595 ) led by Sabila has permitted him and Gallaudet students to conduct nanotechnology research at Howard.

Both Sabila and Sorensen lead research efforts and coordinate workshops nationwide in areas aimed at the advancement of women and minorities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. A grant (NSF #0930112) is helping them achieve this goal through collaboration with George Washington University and the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. In addition, Sabila has another grant (NSF #1040094) in collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia which allows Gallaudet science researchers and students to use a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer, an instrument similar to the better known magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.

Note: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF#1205608. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

11 December 2012

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