MRSEC, Tuskegee partners in NSF diversity-focused materials research grant

MRSEC, Tuskegee partners in NSF diversity-focused materials research grant

Calendar Icon Sep 26, 2018          RSS Feed RSS

Jeffrey Shield, department chair and Robert W. Brightfelt professor of mechanical and materials engineering.
Jeffrey Shield, department chair and Robert W. Brightfelt professor of mechanical and materials engineering.

Through funding from the National Science Foundation, a partnership between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Material Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) and Tuskegee University is one of eight recipients of the NSF’s newest Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) grants.

The six-year, $3.9 million grant from NSF’s Division of Materials Research is intended to help expand collaborations between minority-serving institutions and leading research facilities across the U.S. The PREM partnerships will also provide opportunities for both institutions to recruit, retain and graduate underrepresented minorities in materials fields.

Tuskegee's Vijaya Rangari, professor of materials science and engineering, is the project PI. MRSEC director Evgeny Tsymbal, professor of physics, is the Nebraska PI.

Jeff Shield, department chair and Robert W. Brightfelt professor of mechanical and materials engineering, serves as co-PI and coordinated the effort with Tuskegee to develop research collaborations and outreach programs. Several other MRSEC-affiliated faculty will be involved in collaborative research with their Tuskegee counterparts.

Shield said this project will help the university and the College of Engineering increase opportunities for underrepresented groups and further his department’s work in this area.

This past summer, Mechanical and Materials Engineering faculty hosted the Advanced Manufacturing Summer Institute, where students from Tribal Colleges and Universities across the U.S. came to Lincoln to learn more about engineering.

“In both of these projects, we’re investing our time, energy and, in some cases, money to provide opportunities,” Shield said. “Ultimately, it would be nice to recruit some of Tuskegee’s undergraduates to come here to pursue graduate degrees, but the goal is to open up these fields to groups of students that might not otherwise have these options.”

The project’s materials research, Shield said, will be focused on developing newer classes of materials such as multiferroic polymer nanocomposites that would enhance energy harvesting, data storage and memory, sensors and microelectronic devices. 

Shield sees the relationship between the MRSEC and Tuskegee as being quite complementary.

“There are things that both institutions have to offer the other. Tuskegee has a long history of working in polymer composites, and we at Nebraska have an expertise in multiferroic materials,” Shield said. “This is an opportunity for faculty and students from both institutions to expand their horizons, build connections and develop materials that will have a real impact.”