Contact:
Wolfgang Rudolph, 277-2081
Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, 277-2080
Jim Brozik, 277-1658
Gabriel Lopez, 277-4939
Steve Stricker, 277-1883
Michael Padilla, 277-1816

October 24, 2001

CORE leaders representing five departments (from left): Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, Mary Dewitt, James A. Brozik, Stephen A. Stricker and Wolfgang Rudolph (Gabriel P. Lopez not pictured). UNM RECEIVES $2.4 MILLION NSF GRANT FOR OPTICS RESEARCH AND EDUCATION PROGRAM

The University of New Mexico has received a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program for a project titled “Cross-disciplinary Optics Research and Education (CORE).”

The grant is one of only 22 of its type in the nation to be awarded this year out of more than 400 applications to NSF.

The purpose of CORE is to enhance the education and training of graduate students in the area of optics. The main goal of the project is to cross-train students from the five UNM departments— biology, chemistry, chemical engineering, electrical engineering and physics— in research that is optics-related.

The principal investigator of the project is Wolfgang Rudolph, physics and electrical engineering professor. Co-principal investigators include James A. Brozik, chemistry assistant professor; Gabriel P. Lopez, chemical and nuclear engineering and chemistry associate professor; Stephen A. Stricker, biology associate professor; and Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, physics and astronomy and electrical engineering associate professor. Six other faculty members from various departments will also participate in this program.

The CORE project will also benefit undergraduate students through close collaborations with UNM’s undergraduate Preparation for University Research in Undergraduate Education program .

The majority of the grant will be used for stipends for graduate students in the program. The award provides stipends of $18,000, plus a $10,000 education allowance annually for at least 20 students. The CORE team will actively promote this program nationwide in hopes of attracting the brightest graduate students in the country.

During the project, interdisciplinary teams of graduate students will work on various aspects of the CORE research. They will comprise the design and development of optical methods and tools and their application in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics and engineering.

In addition to the current curricula in their respective departments, students will take a set of cross-disciplinary courses designed specifically for the program. A weekly seminar will provide the students with training in technical writing and in presentations of their research in a multi-disciplinary environment. Mentoring undergraduate students will foster team spirit and leadership skills and will help to recruit, retain, and involve undergraduates, in particular those from underrepresented minorities, in research. Students will participate in internships in national labs, the local industry and abroad.

Rudolph said the overall goal of these education and training activities is to produce a new cadre of engineers and scientists who are prepared to work in multidisciplinary environments. As experts in their respective home disciplines, the IGERT graduates will share a basic understanding of optics, imaging and spectroscopy. As such, they will be prepared to work at the forefront of optics-related research, development and education in national labs, academia and industry. Rudolph said UNM will take steps to ensure a long lasting impact of the project beyond the five-year duration of the grant.

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating doctoral scientists and engineers with the multidisciplinary backgrounds and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future.
This is the second time that UNM won this grant after a successful joint application of UNM (departments of biology and earth & planetary sciences) and the University of Alabama two years ago.

For information concerning the project and application materials, contact Mary DeWitt at 277-1514 or mdewitt@unm.edu.

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