University center awarded $15.6 million


By Jose Zepeda, Contributing writer

The National Science Foundation has awarded $15.6 million to the University’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

“We pride ourselves in our community, and this grant is something that fits really well here,” said Nadya Mason, professor in engineering and director of the project. “So I am really excited to just build on the materials community and really make it bigger.”

The money will be used in order to create interdisciplinary teams of researchers, including professors, undergrad and graduate students. There will be two groups of researchers.

The first group will study new magnetic materials and will also be looking at a way to control magnetism.

The second group will be looking at new ways of interfacing electronics and design new electronic materials that are completely bendable.

“The purpose of this group is to figure out what happens when you have a high quality electronic material that is really completely bendable,” Mason said. “So hard electronics, like things on your phone, with soft materials that are biologically relevant.”

These students will also receive the help from Catherine J. Murphy, professor in chemistry.

“I will be engaged in the science communication, education and outreach activities of the Center,” she said.

Each of the programs will be working outside of the laboratory as well. There will be an outreach program that the students will participate in.

“We are putting together workshops for students and faculty in the program that will improve their ability to communicate science,” Mason said. “Our goal is to have every student and faculty member leave this program being a much better communicator, and have this program that can be a paradigm of how to improve the science communication of the group.”

Besides conducting research in these two fields, the Center will be conducting other experiments. Some of the $15.6 million will go to seed research. The seed research can be about anything the students and faculty want it to be.

The Materials Research Center will add to the Engineering program at Illinois by providing resources, funding and materials for researchers.

“I am really excited to have people wanting to come to Illinois just to be a part of our MRSEC,” Mason said.

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