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NSF Announces New EPSCoR Awards, Investing in Science and Engineering Across Nation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded five jurisdictions nearly $20 million each through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which builds research and development capacity in states that demonstrate a commitment to research but have thus far lacked the levels of investment seen in other parts of the country.

The new EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 awards will bolster science and engineering academic research infrastructure in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wyoming. Each award will support fundamental research and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The awards will also promote workforce development in areas relevant to the jurisdictions' vital interest.

Kansas Nsf Epsco R Track 1

Researchers from Kansas State University and University of Kansas use liquid nitrogen to freeze a core of stream sediment collected from Kings Creek at Konza Prairie Biological Station. The core was sectioned and used to analyze genes of nitrogen cycling organisms from the stream sediment microbiome. The method is unofficially referred to as the "Popsicle method" because the copper
tube is inserted into the sediment and liquid nitrogen poured into the tube to freeze the sediment in a shell around the tube.

Credit: Walter Dodds, Kansas State University

EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill the Foundation's mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. Currently, 24 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam are eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding. Through this program, NSF establishes regional partnerships with government, higher education and industry that effect lasting improvements in a state's or territory's research infrastructure and research and development capacity -- and therefore its academic competitiveness.

"These investments by NSF promise to yield fundamental understanding in research areas of regional and national importance while catalyzing new educational and training opportunities for students and researchers...This year's EPSCoR awards continue to demonstrate the vitality of scientific inquiry and innovation, which is present in universities and research laboratories across the nation."

NSF Director France Córdova

An overarching goal of the five new awards is to develop the scientific foundation and workforce capacity for transitioning towards a knowledge-based economy.

Kansas and Wyoming will both embark on ambitious surveys of microbiomes to better understand and address environmental change, and the economic implications of such changes. Wyoming's project has potential to improve management of rangeland and water resources, enhance agricultural productivity and advance efforts to reclaim sites disturbed by resource extraction. Knowledge generated by Kansas' project will influence agriculture, soil condition and water quality.

Alabama and South Carolina will engage in different areas of basic research with similar goals: developing innovative approaches for producing new, technologically advanced materials with the potential for commercialization in areas ranging from food safety and water treatment to medicine.

Rhode Island will leverage prior investments in coastal wetlands and marine monitoring infrastructure to address the complex interactions between the environment and ecological factors in Narraganset Bay. The project will develop new sensor technologies, deploy new observing systems, and develop complex predictive models for understanding and reacting to environmental change and pollution in the bay.

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