April 30, 2008

Profs Receive $25M Grant

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Two Cornell professors won a $25 million grant for a new interdisciplinary scientific research and education center at Cornell, announced the Global Research Partnership of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology yesterday.
The KAUST-Cornell University Center for Research and Education will be co-led by Prof. Emmanuel Giannelis, materials science and engineering, and Prof. Lynden Archer, chemical and biolomolecular engineering, the Marjorie L. Hart Professor of Engineering. Giannelis and Archer’s proposal is selected as one of the four winners among the 41 initial applications submitted in late 2007.
“We chose these first KAUST GRP Centers from an exceptionally competitive pool of proposals, which represented some of the most talented research teams in the world,” stated KAUST President-designate Choon Fong Shih on the KAUST website.
The website also called the KAUST Global Research Partnership a “research funding program focused on discovery and innovation in areas of science and technology important to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the region, and the world.”
Apart from Cornell, the other winning centers are at the University of Oxford, Stanford University and Texas A&M University.
The biggest challenge of entering this competition was the initial process of putting the proposal together, which Giannelis described as “not a small task.”
“We have to make sure the science is exciting, interesting and at the forefront,” he said.
The grant, which will come in increments of $5 million a year for the next five years, will provide “wonderful new opportunities,” according to Giannelis.
Although the KAUST-Cornell center will conduct research on novel hybrid nanomaterials, Giannelis stressed that education remains an important objective of the center.
“The primary goal is to educate students — graduate students, post docs and undergraduates,” he said.
According to Giannelis, the center will “go beyond research,” provide resources and teach new interdisciplinary courses on polymers, nanomaterials and hybrid materials.
“The idea is to retrain students to be students in a interdisciplinary field,” said Giannelis, who currently heads a polymer nanocomposite research group at Cornell.
Instead of building a new research building, the majority of the work will be done at existing nanotechnology laboratories at Cornell, including those of NanoScale Science and Technology Facility. The research will focus on Nanoparticle Ionic Materials (NIMS) — a new class of organic-inorganic hybrids recently discovered at Cornell.
“The research focus of the center will be the study of NIMS as new platforms for carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, water desalination, photovoltaics and solid state lighting and enhanced oil production,” Giannelis stated in an e-mail.
As the research is “all around energy and sustainability,” it is important not only for the U.S., but also for Saudi Arabia and the world.
The center will also consist of a multidisciplinary team of faculty from Cornell and several partner universities, including the University of Cambridge, Princeton University, Columbia University and UCLA.
The KAUST-Cornell center will also help KAUST, a new university set to open in Saudi Arabia in September 2009, establish a partnership with Cornell. The center will also help build credibility at KAUST, a new graduate-level research university that is supported by a multi-billion dollar endowment.
“Global partnerships and collaborations are essential for any research university that aspires to be world class and to generate science and technologies that will truly improve the lives of people everywhere,” stated Dr. Frank Press, former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and advisor to the selection committee, on KAUST’s website.