E-mail and search functions

I-STEM Education Initiative

Return to I-STEM home page

Main Navigation

For those using screen readers: Disregard the following Javascript. It contains no content.

3. Campus Projects to Reform Undergraduate and Graduate STEM Education

A New Integrated Approach to Undergraduate Course Instruction

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Award
Yi Lu

Dr. Lu proposes developing a new integrated, inquiry-based course involving all levels of undergraduate students, from freshmen to seniors, with the theme of the role of chemistry in life and society. The course will help recruit, motivate, and retain minority students as science majors. The course will be a single class that spans the four-year undergraduate education; students may take up to one semester per year. First-time students will attend lectures as well as presentations by other students. They will also choose an open-ended topic to research. The second time students take the course, they will give a literature seminar on their chosen topic. The third time, they will give a proposal seminar on how they will investigate their topic and resolve problems. The fourth time, they will give a seminar to report the results of their investigations.

Students at all levels who have similar topics will be put into groups to work together; seniors will be expected to act as mentors to the more junior students. In addition, each group will be assigned a more senior mentor, such as the instructor, a teaching fellow, a graduate teaching assistant, or a research assistant. The goal of the course is to interest students who may not otherwise choose science courses or a science major. In addition, to recruit minority students from other universities, the course will be offered in the summers and fellowships will be provided to defer expenses.

CAREER: Advancement of Microalgal Biotechnology via Quantitative Sustainable Design: An Integrated Research and Education Plan

National Science Foundation Award #1351667
Jeremy Guest
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Project Dates: 05/15/2010 – 4/30/2019

This project will advance the frontier of microalgal biotechnology through the integration of experimentation, modeling, and quantitative sustainable design (QSD), and will leverage this framework to improve the education and retention of a diverse student body in environmental engineering. Research will pursue energy-positive nutrient recovery from wastewater with microalgae, and will focus on overcoming critical knowledge gaps that limit our ability to design mixed community microalgal bioprocesses that might bring this transformation within reach. Objectives of the research are (i) to elucidate the mechanisms governing microalgal bioprocess performance across a landscape of possible designs, and (ii) to establish a path forward for energy positive nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) recovery from wastewater. Experiments with mixed communities of microalgae treating wastewater will be coupled with modeling to advance understanding of how key design parameters influence process performance, microbial community structure and function. These findings will be integrated in a QSD framework (including life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, sensitivity and uncertainty analyses) to identify technology targets and chart a path forward for microalgal wastewater biotechnology development.

Research efforts will be integrated with an education plan designed (i) to increase the intrinsic motivation of minority and female students in introductory- and advanced-level environmental engineering courses through an aspirational resource management framework, and (ii) to increase awareness of and ability to navigate trade-offs among environmental, economic, and performance sustainability criteria for engineered systems. These goals will be achieved by developing two online course modules that will be designed, tested, and deployed at UIUC, Bucknell University, and Parkland College. Modules will be designed through cognitive labs and will include external, independent formative and summative evaluations.

The project is aimed at developing a fundamental understanding of thermal transport in soft and hard matter, and across interfaces separating these materials. This understanding may lead to new pathways for developing small-scale transistors, discovering new cancer therapies, and creating novel energy harvesting thermoelectric materials.

Current approaches to nutrient management at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) use costly, energy-intensive processes that rely on bacteria and chemicals to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. This research will re-envision nutrient management at WWTPs by utilizing native microalgae for energy-positive biological nutrient recovery. In addition to increasing the embodied chemical energy of wastewater more than 2-fold, this approach may also advance the limit of technology by overcoming the critical barrier of dissolved organic nitrogen, a form of N that is often unable to be removed by existing nutrient removal processes but which can be rapidly assimilated by microalgae. The core concept of the research plan is microalgal technology development can be expedited through integration of experimentation, modeling, and QSD. This integrated process will elucidate molecular-scale barriers to systems-scale sustainability and seek to overcome them through process design. This approach will enable the setting of targets for technology performance, and identify critical areas for future research to achieve long-term adoption and sustainability. The research activities will be coupled with educational activities to increase the attraction and retention of underrepresented students by focusing on aspirational outcomes of environmental engineering and developing a new platform for education in sustainable design.

CAREER: Anharmonic Dynamics of Thermal Transport in Nanotransistors and Across Hard-Soft Interfaces

National Science Foundation Award #0954696
Sanjiv Sinha
Mechanical Science and Engineering
Project Dates: 02/01/2010 – 1/31/2016

This project is aimed at tailoring phonon transport phenomena in nanostructures through the control of coherence and anharmonicity effects. Coherence-scale phenomena are prominent in, for example, field-effect transistors while anharmonicity affects transport at interfaces separating hard and soft matter. The long-term goal of this project is to enable and advance pertinent applications ranging from nanoelectronics to nanomedicine. Theoretical tools will be developed to analyze coherence effects, while novel experiments will be devised and conducted to probe the spectral properties of phonons participating in thermal transport at hard-soft interfaces.

A systematic investigation of the role of anharmonicity (in soft matter) and coherence (in hard matter) during thermal transport will be conducted. A phonon wave transport theory will be extended to include particle-like behavior to enable the prediction of thermal responses in sub-10 nanometer transistors. A novel time-resolved Raman scattering approach to experimentally probe temperature-dependent anharmonic shifts in the frequencies of macromolecules will also be developed, providing a means to gain insight into the anharmonic dynamics of phonons in soft matter.

The project is aimed at developing a fundamental understanding of thermal transport in soft and hard matter, and across interfaces separating these materials. This understanding may lead to new pathways for developing small-scale transistors, discovering new cancer therapies, and creating novel energy harvesting thermoelectric materials.

Education Component: The education plan will motivate students at multiple levels to pursue careers and research in energy conversion and the thermal sciences. New laboratory experiences will be incorporated into undergraduate laboratory courses at the PI's institution. Likewise, a new graduate course in nanotransport will be developed. Teaching kits will be developed for K-12 teachers, and outreach will include summer camps to introduce energy conversion principles to high school girls.

CAREER: Bayesian Models for Lexicalized Grammars

National Science Foundation Award #1053856
Julia Hockenmaier
Computer Science
Project Dates: 02/01/2011 – 1/31/2016

Natural language processing (NLP) is a key technology for the digital age. At the core of most NLP systems is a parser, a program which identifies the grammatical structure of sentences. Parsing is an essential prerequisite for language understanding. But despite significant progress in recent decades, accurate wide-coverage parsing for any genre or language remains an unsolved problem. This project will advance the state of art in NLP technology through the development of more accurate statistical parsing models.

Since language is highly ambiguous, parsers require a statistical model which assigns the highest probability to the correct structure of each sentence. The accuracy of current parsers is limited by the amount of available training data on which their models can be trained, and by the amount of information the models take into account. This project aims to advance parsing by developing novel methods of indirect supervision to overcome the lack of labeled training data, as well as new kinds of models which incorporate information about the prior linguistic context in which sentences appear. It employs Bayesian techniques, which give robust estimates and allow rich parametrization, and applies them to lexicalized grammars, which provide a compact representation of the syntactic properties of a language.

Education Component: This project will also train graduate students in NLP and develop materials that can be used to teach middle and high school students about NLP and to inspire them to pursue an education in computer science.

CAREER: Computational Methods for Analyzing Large-Scale Genomic Changes in Mammalian Genomes

National Science Foundation Award #1054309
Jian Ma
Project Dates: 03/01/2011 – 2/29/2016

This project will develop new combinatorial and probabilistic algorithms that will unravel the interwoven large-scale genomic changes that have occurred across species in an evolutionary context. The main research thrust is to develop new ancestral genome reconstruction algorithms that handle rearrangements, duplications, and large insertions and deletions at different resolutions in a single unified framework. These methods will be applied to the large number of available whole-genome sequence data to elucidate detailed history of large-scale genomic operations in mammalian genomes. With the reconstructed history, scientists will be able to explain the large-scale genomic changes and assess their phenotypic impact on any lineage, including the human lineage.

These new software tools and resources will shed new light on the extraordinary diversity of mammalian forms and capabilities. Insights from this project will be applied to improve genome assembly methodologies based on next-generation high-throughput DNA sequencing reads. The models and algorithms will also investigate specific genomic regions influenced by large-scale genomic changes, such as complex gene clusters and regions that harbor genome instability in cancer genomes. The open-source software tools for comparative genomics research will be accessible to other scientists around the world. In addition, the outcome of the project will be disseminated through online website. Visualization tools from the research will provide scientific education on genome evolution to increase the accessibility of scientific results to the general public.

Education Component: Educational objectives include new bioinformatics courses; training graduate students with interdisciplinary expertise necessary for the post-genomic era and providing them with meaningful international research experience through collaboration; getting undergraduate students involved in research projects; and participating in the G.A.M.E.S. camp at the University of Illinois to inspire pre-college girls to develop careers in science and engineering.

CAREER: Innovative Confinement Technology for Strong Main Shock-Aftershock Damage Mitigation

National Science Foundation Award #1055640
Bassem Andrawes
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Project Dates: 04/01/2011 – 3/31/2016

This project seeks to mitigate damage and to enhance the robustness and functionality of reinforced concrete bridges subjected to moderate-to-strong earthquakes and their aftershocks. For damage-control, the project will investigate the application of a new concrete confinement technology utilizing the shape memory alloys (SMAs) as the transverse reinforcement. This new technology capitalizes on the concept of active confinement. The research activities planned for this project include: (1) Conducting multi-axial monotonic and cyclic tests on concrete elements confined with the new reinforcement. (2) Developing general 3-dimensional plasticity model for concrete confined with SMA reinforcement with enhanced damage prediction feature. (3) Examining the durability and long-term performance of SMA reinforcement through laboratory tests and field tests conducted on real bridges in Illinois. (4) Developing models for realistic seismic hazard scenarios comprising moderate-to-strong main shock followed by a series of aftershocks. (5) Conducting seismic damage analyses to develop fragility curves for bridges reinforced with the new technology. (6) Conducting confirmatory hybrid simulation tests on reduced-scale reinforced concrete bridge piers strengthened with the new confinement technology.

This project will provide the earthquake engineering community with critical, in-depth, information about the new confinement technology. It will address the modeling, durability, and design issues that are crucial for this technology to reach its full potential in delivering immediate solutions to the problems of post-earthquake functionality, down time, and repair costs of critical lifeline bridges. To increase the awareness of this new technology among the practicing bridge engineers, the PI will organize a workshop to disseminate the project results to this group of engineers. The project will also promote the new hybrid simulation testing technique used in this project to the seismic research community. Finally, this project will also increase the awareness among the research and practitioner communities about the impacts of strong earthquake aftershocks on the design of civil engineering structures.

Education Component: The results of this project will be directly disseminated to the graduate and senior level civil engineering students through two graduate-level concrete design courses taught at Illinois. To encourage and promote the involvement of K-12 students from underrepresented groups in the field of Civil Engineering, an annual summer camp for female high school students will be organized.

CAREER: Investigation of DNA-Binding Protein Dynamics With High-Resolution Optical Traps

National Science Foundation Award #0952442
Yann Chemla
Project Dates: 02/15/2010 – 01/31/2016

A broad class of DNA-binding protein interacts with the genome in a non-sequence-specific manner. These proteins act mechanically on their substrates, altering DNA conformation by bending, twisting, or stretching the molecule, and oligomerizing to form long filaments. These nucleoprotein complexes often serve as substrates upon which genome maintenance processes occur. Thus, they are involved in all aspects of DNA metabolism, in replication, recombination, and repair, and are important regulators of cellular processes. Single-stranded DNA binding proteins (SSB) serve as a model system for features common to this class of proteins. This project will use a synthesis of techniques from traditional biochemistry and molecular biology, in combination with single-molecule biophysics and computational biology to investigate: (1) how SSBs induce conformational rearrangement of nucleic acids, (2) how they oligomerize into nucleoprotein filaments, and (3) how these protein clusters recruit and modulate the activity of other proteins involved in nucleic acid processing. Specifically, high-resolution optical trapping in combination with single-molecule fluorescence techniques will be used to reveal dynamic protein-DNA interactions, going beyond the limitations of current methods. This work will shed light on fundamental aspects of genome maintenance.

Education Component: The PI has a deep commitment to interdisciplinary education of young scientists and outreach towards underrepresented groups. In particular, he sees in biophysics a unique opportunity to recruit women, who have traditionally been drawn to biology over physics, into the quantitative sciences. The outreach and education components of the project synthesize these themes into a broad plan targeting middle and high school, undergraduate, and graduate education. Specifically, the PI will: (1) develop a lab camp for a girls' summer program to teach middle and high school girls about physics and its impact on biological problems and to provide hands-on experience with biophysics, (2) improve the teaching of an introductory undergraduate physics course for life science students (the majority of whom are women) to better connect physics concepts with biology and medicine, (3) develop a lab course devoted to the training of the next generation of biophysicists in advanced technologies as part of the NSF Center for the Physics of the Living Cells (CPLC), and (4) participate in yearly minority conferences. This project is jointly supported by the Genes and Genome Systems Cluster and the Biomolecular Systems Cluster in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.

CAREER: Large-Scale Recognition Using Shared Structures, Flexible Learning, and Efficient Search

National Science Foundation Award #1053768
Derek Hoiem
Computer Science
Project Dates: 05/01/2011 – 4/30/2016

This research investigates shared representations, flexible learning techniques, and efficient multi-category inference methods that are suitable for large-scale visual recognition. The goal is to produce visual systems that can accurately describe a wide range of objects with varying precision, rather than being limited to identifying objects within a few pre-defined categories. The main approach is to design object representations that enable new objects to be understood in terms of existing ones, which enables learning with fewer examples and faster and more robust recognition.

The research has three main components: (1) Designing appearance and spatial models for objects that are shared across basic categories; (2) Investigating algorithms to learn from a mixture of detailed and loose annotations and from human feedback; and (3) Designing efficient search algorithms that take advantage of shared representations.

The research provides more detailed, flexible, and accurate recognition algorithms that are suitable for high-impact applications, such as vehicle safety, security, assistance to the blind, household robotics, and multimedia search and organization. For example, if a vehicle encounters a cow in the road, the vision system would localize the cow and its head and legs and report "four-legged animal, walking left," even if it has not seen cows during training.

Education Component/Dissemination: The research also provides a unique opportunity to involve undergraduates in research, promote interdisciplinary learning and collaboration, and engage in outreach. Research ideas and results are disseminated through scientific publications, released code and datasets, public talks, and demonstrations for high school students.

CAREER: Subsampling Methods in Statistical Modeling of Ultra-Large Sample Geophysics

National Science Foundation Award #1055815
Ping Ma
Project Dates: 09/01/2011 – 8/31/2016

Remote sensing of the Earth's deep interior is challenging, and direct sampling is impossible due to extreme pressures and temperatures. Our knowledge of the Earth’s deep interior is thus pieced together from a range of surface observations. Among surface observations, seismic waves emitted by earthquakes are effective probes of the Earth’s deep interior and are relatively inexpensively recorded by networks of seismographs at the Earth's surface. Unprecedented volumes of seismic data brought by dense global seismograph networks offer researchers both opportunities and challenges to explore the Earth’s deep interior. The key challenge is that directly applying statistical methods to this ultra-large sample seismic data using current computing resources is prohibitive. To facilitate geophysical discoveries that can enhance our understanding of the Earth’s deep interior using current computing resources, the investigator proposes a family of novel statistical methods under a subsampling framework to provide an opportunity to study various distinct statistical problems, such as function estimation and variable selection, in a unified framework. The investigator will establish asymptotic and finite sample theory to investigate the approximation accuracy and consistency of the proposed methods.

How to analyze ultra-large sample data creates a significant challenge in almost all fields of science and engineering.Various solutions to tackle the problem include cloud computing for aggregating a wide range of computing resources and powerful supercomputers; however, the high cost of these solutions creates an extraordinary budget barrier for researchers. The proposed subsampling methods provide alternative methods to surmount this challenge. The theory to be established will benefit a wide spectrum of research in science and engineering.

Education Component: This project will offer a unique educational experience for both undergraduate and graduate students to participate in cutting-edge statistical and interdisciplinary research and inspire new lines of research in three distinct fields: statistics, geophysics, and computational biology.

CAREER: Theory and Application of Reflective Microring Resonators

National Science Foundation Award #1055941
Lynford Goddard
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Project Dates: 03/01/2011 – 2/29/2016

The objectives of this program are to characterize, model, and utilize reflective microring reflectors. The PI proposes engineering novel device functionality by integrating a Bragg reflector in a microring resonator. The microring amplifies grating reflection, creating a compact mirror with high reflectivity, narrow linewidth, and no side lobe ripple. These benefits would reduce channel crosstalk and potentially result in lower power, higher data rate communication systems.

The research will advance scientific understanding of the device and demonstrate its potential as a fundamental element to the photonics community. The PI proposes to leverage his preliminary results in device theory, experience in lasers, sensors, and nanofabrication, and experimental capabilities and resources. This potentially transformative research may unlock new lines of research (new devices and models) and enable diverse applications (interferometry, metrology, RF photonics, and communications). Two specific applications will be explored: as cavities for on-chip absorption spectroscopy and as mirrors for tunable lasers.

The broader impacts will be to create novel devices for next generation communications and consumer electronics.

Education Component: Research and teaching will be integrated through the development of two courses: Principles of Experimental Research and Modeling of Photonic Devices. Recruitment, retention, and participation of students from underrepresented groups will be addressed through mentoring, REU internships, and a new electrical engineering summer camp for 10th-12th grade girls. Results from both research and teaching will be published to enhance the current understanding of reflective microring devices and engineering education/outreach methodologies.

CDI-Type II: Collaborative Research: Joint Image-Text Parsing and Reasoning for Analyzing Social and Political News Events

National Science Foundation #1027965
Cheng Xiang Zhai
Department of Computer Science
Project Dates: 10/01/2010 – 9/30/2015

Rapidly changing technologies of multi-modal communication, from international satellite TV, Internet news outlets, to YouTube, are transforming the news industry. In parallel, citizen journalism is on the rise, enabled by smart phones, social networks, and blogs. The Internet is becoming a vast information ecosystem driven by mediated events, elections, social movements, natural disasters, disease epidemics, with rich heterogeneous data: text, image, and video. Meanwhile, tools and methodologies for users and researchers are not keeping pace: it is prohibitively labor-intensive to systematically access and study the vast amount of emerging news data.

The research team is developing a new computational paradigm for analyzing massive datasets of social and political news events: 1) Studying joint image-text parsing to categorize news by topics and events, and analyzing selection and presentation biases across networks and media spheres in a statistical and quantitative manner never before possible; 2) Studying by joint image-text mining to reason the persuasion intents, and modeling the techniques of verbal and visual persuasions; 3) Discovering spatio-temporal patterns in the interactions of multiple mediated events, and analyzing agenda setting patterns; and 4) Developing an interactive multi-perspective news interface, vrNewsScape, for visualizing and interacting with our computational and statistical results.

Intellectual merit: This interdisciplinary project makes innovative contributions to three disciplines. The project develops a data-driven paradigm for transforming communication research in the social sciences. By enabling quantitative studies of massive visual datasets, the research team identifies and characterizes large-scale patterns of news mediation and persuasion currently inaccessible to researchers, due to the prohibitive cost of manual analysis. The research team goes beyond traditional object detection, segmentation, and recognition by studying framing and persuasion techniques in images, an untouched topic in computer vision; semantic associations and meanings for object and scene categories in their social context; and image parsing to fill the semantic gap, a long-standing technical barrier in image retrieval, and will generate narrative text descriptions from the parse trees so they can be fused with the input text and closed captioning for topic mining.

Going beyond conventional topic mining from text to perform integrative text-image mining, bias detection, and pattern discovery in the spatio-temporal evolution of mediated news events, the research detects and summarizes controversy and mine user-generated content for analyzing communicative intent and persuasive effects.

Broader impacts: vrNewsScape is being made publicly available to researchers and graduate students. Because the news media report on events in multiple different expert domains, the analytical tools in development are not limited to a particular research domain but permit a systematic and quantitative examination of the massive datasets required to understand today’s mediated society.

Education: the project extends UCLA’s Digital Civic Learning initiative (dcl.sscnet.ucla.edu), a program involving college and high-school students in the analysis of news, thus delivering education benefits to potentially a huge number of students nationwide in Communication Studies (in 2004, 433,000 college students were enrolled in Communication and Journalism and 209,000 in Political Science[153]), exposing them to a new generation of high-level tools for handling multimodal data and inspiring them to pursue computational thinking, in line with the NSF’s objectives.

Center For Macromolecular Modeling & Bioinformatics

National Institutes of Health Award #5P41GM104601-24
Klaus Schulten

Project Dates: 8/01/2010 – 7/31/2015

Biomedical technology research center focusing on the structure and function of supramolecular systems in the living cell as well as on the development of new algorithms and efficient computing tools for physical biology. They bring the most advanced molecular modeling, bioinformatics, and computational technologies to bear on questions of biomedical relevance. They extend, refine and deliver these technologies in response to experimental progress and emerging needs of the wide biomedical research community. They magnify the impact of their work through direct collaboration with experimental researchers, the distribution of cutting-edge and user-friendly software, and via extensive training, service, and dissemination efforts. The multidisciplinary team is engaged in the modeling of large macromolecular systems in realistic environments, and has produced ground-breaking insights into biomolecular processes coupled with mechanical force, bioelectronic processes in metabolism and vision, and with the function and mechanism of membrane proteins. They are committed and work towards further advancement of

  • Molecular modeling tools which can integrate structural information with bioinformatics databases and molecular dynamics simulations, and which can be used by a wide audience;
  • High performance molecular visualization and simulation software, capable of modeling biomolecules in realistic environments of 100,000,000 atoms or more;
  • Conceptual and methodological foundations of molecular modeling in the fields of quantum biology, mechanobiology, and interactive modeling;
  • Biomedical science through collaborations between theoretical and experimental researchers; Support of the entire research process and training through a web-enabled collaborative environment; and Service, training, and dissemination by leveraging web-based molecular graphics and integrated modeling technologies.

  • CMMB IGERT: Training the Next Generation of Researchers in Cellular & Molecular Mechanics and Bionanotechnology

    National Science Foundation Award #0965918
    Rashid Bashir, Martha L. Gillette, K. Jimmy Hsia, Taher A. Saif
    Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Mechanical Science and Engineering
    Project Dates: 8/01/2010 – 7/31/2016

    The CMMB IGERT is training the next generation of leaders who will define the new frontiers of cellular and molecular mechanics and bionanotechnology.

    Integrating biology and medicine with micro and nanotechnology can be categorized into two broad areas, namely how micro/nano-fabrication can help solve problems in life sciences (such as diagnostics, therapeutics, and tissue engineering) and how we can learn more from life science to solve important problems in micro/nano-science and engineering (such as bio-inspired self-assembly).

    Collaborative Research: Dimensions: Experimental adaptive radiation-genomics of diversification in bird lice

    National Science Foundation Award #1342604
    Kevin Johnson
    Illinois Natural History Survey
    Project Dates: 11/1/2013 – 10/31/2018

    Adaptive radiation occurs when one species of organism diversifies into several species that occupy distinct ecological niches. The process is a common generator of biodiversity, yet the genetic changes underlying it have not been documented. Parasites, one of the most diverse groups of organisms on earth, are thought to adaptively radiate as they switch to new species of hosts. This process will be studied using birds and feather lice, which are host specific parasites that spend all of their time on the host's body. Lice will be transferred in controlled experiments between normal and novel species of captive hosts. Evolutionary changes in genomes of the lice will be documented as they undergo adaptive radiation.

    The results of this work may have implications for basic research, as well as human and animal health. Genomic data will be deposited in public databases. One postdoctoral associate, two Ph.D. students, and several undergraduate students will be trained. Two educational modules demonstrating adaptation by natural selection will be developed for K-12 students: "cryptic critters" (K-6) and "hunker down" (7-12). These modules are cost effective and easy to implement. Their effectiveness will be assessed with assistance from the University of Utah Center for Science and Math Education.

    Collaborative Research: Physics of Living Systems Student Research Network

    National Science Foundation Award #1026550
    Taekjip Ha
    Project Dates: 10/1/2010–9/30/2016

    This collaborative award will support formation of a Physics of Living Systems Graduate Student Research Network, a trans-institutional community-based network of graduate students and graduate student educators all working on the physics of living systems. The initial participating institutions are the University of California, San Diego (which will coordinate the program), the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Princeton University, Yale University, Cambridge University, and University College, London. The network structure will allow students at participating institutions (and a select number of other students) to meet their peers (both in-person and in-silico) and collectively help define the research agenda for this field. It will also allow for the creation of visiting internships, which will serve both as a way of broadening students perspectives on possible approaches to difficult research topics and as a way of creating collaborative ties between groups at the various sites. This structure will also enable the exploration of various means of educating these students in biology, while also ensuring that they develop and maintain a firm grounding in physics. This award is supported by the Physics of Livings Systems Program in the Physics Division in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, as well as Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in the Directorate for Biological Sciences, and the Office of International Science and Engineering.

    Collaborative Research: Variability-Aware Software for Efficient Computing with Nanoscale Devices

    National Science Foundation Award #1028888
    Rakesh Kumar
    Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Project Dates: 9/1/2010–8/31/2016

    As semiconductor manufacturers build ever smaller components, circuits and chips at the nano scale become less reliable and more expensive to produce, no longer behaving like precisely chiseled machines with tight tolerances. Modern computing is effectively ignorant of the variability in behavior of underlying system components from device to device, their wear-out over time, or the environment in which the computing system is placed. This makes them expensive, fragile and vulnerable to even the smallest changes in the environment or component failures. We envision a computing world where system components—led by proactive software— routinely monitor, predict, and adapt to the variability of manufactured systems. Changing the way software interacts with hardware offers the best hope for perpetuating the fundamental gains in computing performance at lower cost. The Variability Expedition fundamentally rethinks the rigid, deterministic hardware-software interface to propose a new class of adaptive, highly energy efficient computing machines which will be able to discover the nature and extent of variation in hardware, develop abstractions to capture these variations, and drive adaptations in the software stack from compilers, runtime to applications. The resulting computer systems will continue working though components vary in performance or grow less reliable over time and across technology generations. A fluid software-hardware interface will mitigate the variability of manufactured systems and make machines robust, reliable and responsive to changing operating conditions.

    The Variability Expedition marshals resources of researchers at Illinois and other universities. With expertise in process technology, architecture, and design tools on the hardware side, and in operating systems, compilers and languages on the software side, the team also has the system implementation and applications expertise needed to drive and evaluate the research as well as transition research accomplishments into practice via application drivers in wireless sensing, software radio and mobile platforms.

    A successful Expedition will dramatically change the computing landscape. Re-architecting software to work in a world where monitoring and adaptation are the norm will achieve more robust, efficient and affordable systems able to predict and withstand hardware failures, software bugs, and even attacks. The new paradigm will apply across the entire spectrum of embedded, mobile, desktop and server-class computing machines, yielding particular gains in sensor information processing, multimedia rendering, software radios, search, medical imaging and other important applications.

    Education Component: Transforming the relationship between hardware and software presents valuable opportunities to integrate research and education, and this Expedition will build on established collaborations with educator-partners in formal and informal arenas to promote interdisciplinary teaching, training, learning and research. Strong industrial and community outreach ties will ensure success and outreach to high-school students through a combination of tutoring and summer school programs. The Expedition will engage undergraduate and graduate students in software, hardware, and systems research, while promoting participation by underrepresented groups at all levels and broadly disseminating results within academia and industry.

    Critical Zone Observatory for Intensively Managed Landscapes (IML-CZO)

    National Science Foundation Award #1331906
    Praveen Kumar, Alison Anders, Praveen Kumar, Timothy Filley, Thanos Papanicolaou
    Civil and Environmental Engineering Geology
    Project Dates: 12/1/2013–11/30/2018

    Intensively managed landscapes, regions of significant land use change, serve as a cradle for economic prosperity. However, the intensity of change is responsible for unintended deterioration of our land and water environments. By understanding present day dynamics in the context of long-term co-evolution of the landscape, soil and biota, IML-CZO aims to support the assessment of short- and long-term resilience of the crucial ecological, hydrological and climatic services. These include freshwater quality and quantity, provision for food, fiber and (bio)fuel, nutrient transformations, and terrestrial carbon storage. The goals of this project are to quantify the fluxes and transformations, as well as interactions, thresholds, and dynamic feedbacks of water, nutrients, and sediment in IMLs, and to characterize how rapid land use changes have altered the vulnerability and resilience of these systems. An observational network of two sites in Illinois (3,690-km2 Upper Sangamon River Basin) and Iowa (270-km2 Clear Creek Watershed), and a partner site in Minnesota (44,000-km2 Minnesota River Basin), which together capture a range of geological diversity of the low relief glaciated and tile-drained landscape in the Midwest, will drive the scientific and technological advances. The guiding hypothesis for the scientific effort is that through human modification, the critical zone of IMLs has passed a tipping point (or threshold) and has changed from being a transformer of material flux, with high nutrient, water, and sediment storage, to being a transporter. This change threatens the resilience of the landscape to accommodate future impacts associated with ongoing human activity, including climate change and bioenergy crop production. Further, it increases the vulnerability of IMLs by compromising the sustainability of key critical-zone services on which ecological systems and human populations depend. Understanding and quantifying shifts in the response of the critical zone to human development remains a challenge, and current assessments are at best qualitative. IML-CZO research will identify threats to resilience of the critical zone, and will also inform management strategies aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the system to human activities that threaten sustainability. We will develop methods and knowledgebase that are broadly applicable across the Midwest and similar low-gradient landscapes worldwide.

    The project will provide leadership in developing the next generation of work force and informing sustainable management strategies. The IML-CZO will be a launch pad for several new educational and outreach initiatives, and it will be an integral resource to connect and partner with existing organizations. It will draw on and add to several resources and programs available throughout the region. The CZO will provide a testbed for student-led sensing and data collection initiatives, and is expected to stimulate new research ideas and further advance the sensors and measurements curriculum. The CZO will also work to bring together collaborations with National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, IOWATER, Minnesota and Illinois RiverWatch Volunteer programs to enlist "citizen scientist" (age 10 - 70) in the work of the CZO. IML-CZO will also serve as a training ground for several undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral research associates by engaging them in interdisciplinary research.

    CPS: Synergy: Collaborative Research: Engineering Safety-Critical Cyber-Physical-Human Systems

    National Science Foundation Award #1330077
    Alex Kirlik, Lui Sha Carolyn Beck, Naira Hovakimyan
    Computer Science, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering Mechanical Science and Engineering
    Project Dates: 10/1/2013–9/30/2016

    This cross-disciplinary project brings together a team of engineering and computer science researchers to create, validate, and demonstrate the value of new techniques for ensuring that systems composed of combinations of hardware, software, and humans are designed to operate in a truly synergistic and safe fashion. One notable and increasingly common feature of these "Cyber-Physical-Human" (CPH) systems is that the responsibility for safe operation and performance is typically shared by increasingly sophisticated automation in the form of hardware and software, and humans who direct and oversee the behavior of automation yet may need to intervene to take over manual or shared system control when unexpected environmental situations or hardware or software failures occur. The ultimate goal is to achieve levels of safety and performance in system operation that exceed the levels attainable by either skilled human operators or completely autonomous systems acting alone. To do so, the research team will draw upon their expertise in the design of robust, fault-tolerant control systems, in the design of complexity-reduction architectures for software verification, and in human factors techniques for cognitive modeling to assure high levels of human situation awareness through effective interface design. By doing so, the safety, cost and performance benefits of increasingly sophisticated automation can be achieved without the frequently observed safety risks caused by automation creating greater distance between human operators and system operation. The techniques will be iteratively created and empirically evaluated using experimentation in human-in-the-loop simulations, including a medium-fidelity aircraft and flight simulator and a simulation of assistive automation in a medical context.

    More broadly, this research is expected to impact and inform the engineering of future CPH systems generally, for all industries and systems characterized by an increasing use of hardware and software automation directed and overseen by humans who provide an additional layer of safety in expected situations, Examples include highway and automotive automation, aerospace and air traffic control automation, semi-automated process control systems, and the many forms of automated systems and devices increasingly being used in medical contexts, such as the ICU and operating room. This research is also expected to inform government and industry efforts to provide safety certification criteria for the technologies used in CPH systems, and to educate a next generation of students trained in the cross-disciplinary skills and abilities needed to engineer the CPH systems of the future. The investigators will organize industry, academic, and government workshops to disseminate results and mentor students who are members of underrepresented groups through the course of this research project.

    Discovering the Nanoworld: A New Module for Teaching about Molecules and Bonding in General Chemistry

    National Science Foundation Award #0942090
    David Woon; Thomas Dunning; Lizanne DeStefano; Donald DeCoste
    Project Dates: 10/1/2010–9/30/2015

    The objective of this project is to create a new module on the nature of chemical bonding, one of the most fundamental components of undergraduate general chemistry. In place of memorizing rules, the new strategy develops an understanding of the nature of bonding by exploring the process by which atoms combine to form molecules, with an emphasis on developing predictive intuition. Context is supplied by focusing on molecules in real-world situations, such as the gases that constitute Earth's atmosphere. Being developed by expert working scientists and seasoned general chemistry lecturers, the web-based, extensively visual module is being tested in Illinois classrooms and modified in response to student comprehension. The performance of chemistry majors is being tracked through subsequent courses. The module will be improved using input from chemistry lecturers and instructors of later courses that depend upon an understanding of bonding. Instructors are being trained in the new material through local workshops and resources on the website, including video. The website will serve as a nexus for implementing the module beyond the University.

    The way chemical bonding is taught in general chemistry needs to be transformed to update material to reflect current knowledge and address and avoid common misconceptions. Founded on rigorous quantum chemistry, the new module uses both static and animated graphics. Lessons involve discovery of principles rather than rules to be memorized. Employing the same reasoning process working scientists use to study basic phenomena, students will develop their ability to confront the mysteries of the subject and construct an effective cognitive framework for understanding bonding. The approach builds a coherent narrative that connects atoms and their properties to molecules and their properties. It emphasizes connecting theory and its symbolic representations to actual molecules in real-world contexts. This project impacts STEM education by: 1) improving the chemistry curriculum; 2) improving introductory chemistry, which should also help to increase student interest in STEM careers; (3) developing a model for course revision.

    Exploration of Pressure- and Field-Tuned Phenomena and Phases in Mn- and V-based Spinels

    National Science Foundation Award #1464090

    S. Lance Cooper
    DMR Division of Materials Research
    MPS Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences

    Dates: 9/1/15–8/31/18 (estimated)

    "Magnetically responsive" materials have magnetic and conducting properties that can be sensitively tuned with pressure and magnetic field, and exhibit a range of scientifically interesting and technologically useful properties, including coexisting magnetic and electric orders, magnetic-field-induced shape and conductivity changes, and strain controlled magnetism. Understanding the physical mechanisms responsible for these exotic properties is not only important scientifically, but is an essential prerequisite to optimizing these materials for use in technological applications. This project combines the use of high pressures, high magnetic fields, and visible laser light to identify and control the underlying mechanisms responsible for magnetically responsive behavior in a select group of magnetically responsive materials. Among the goals of this project are to identify the key physical mechanisms that give rise to magnetically responsive behavior, to control these mechanisms in order to create novel properties of scientific and technological interest, and to investigate as-yet-unexplored phase regions to uncover new, and potentially useful, physical properties. The diverse techniques employed in this research - including high-pressure techniques using diamond anvil cell technology, high-magnetic-field and low-temperature methods, optical and laser techniques, and materials growth methods - provide the graduate and undergraduate student researchers outstanding training for a diverse range of careers in academia, industry, or national laboratories. This project is also dedicated to imparting scientific literacy and enthusiasm for science in both the general public and K-12 students, through public lectures on science, middle-school scientific demonstrations, and lab tours that highlight the excitement of the materials studied and the scientific techniques used in this project.

    IGERT: Training the Next Generation of Researchers in Cellular & Molecular Mechanics and Bionanotechnology

    National Science Foundation Award #0965918
    Rashid Bashir, Martha Gillette, K. Jimmy Hsia, Taher A.Saif

    Mechanical Science and Engineering

    Dates: August 1, 2010–July 31, 2015 (estimated)

    This goal of this Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) award is to create a graduate training program that will produce the next generation of intellectual leaders in Cellular & Molecular Mechanics and Bio-Nanotechnology. This program represents a highly coordinated and interdisciplinary effort to educate Ph.D. students across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California at Merced, North Carolina Central University, and partner institutions to tackle the important problems in bionanotechnology spanning the molecular-cellular-tissue scale.

    How living cells transduce mechanical signals to functionalities at different length scales, from inside cells to their communication with the extra cellular matrix, presents a scientific grand challenge of our times. Recent advancements in micro/nanotechnology, molecular scale imaging, and computational methodologies will catalyze this quantitative biological revolution at a cellular and molecular scale. Students who have been trained at the intersection of these domains have the potential to revolutionize tissue and regenerative engineering, biological energy harvesting, sensing and actuation, cells-as-a-machine, and synthetic biology, to name a few. Unique training efforts in this program include a two-track educational program to educate engineering and biology students to develop depth and breadth in their area of research, new experimental modules and a summer workshop introducing the IGERT trainees to state-of-the-art equipment and laboratory procedures, an exciting iWORLD program with collaborators around the world that will provide IGERT trainees with international research experiences, and a student leader council that participates in the leadership and drives the management of the IGERT.

    IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline, and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

    I/UCRC: Center for Agricultural, Biomedical, and Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology

    National Science Foundation Award #1067943
    Brian Cunningham, Lila Vodkin, Rashid Bashir, Paul Hergenrother, Irfan Ahmad
    Electrical and Computer Engineering, Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology Chemistry, Crop Sciences

    Dates: February 1, 2011–January 31, 2016 (estimated)

    The Center for Agricultural Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology (CABPN) will focus on developing nanotechnology platforms that can be applied to three substantially important topics requiring strong industry/academic partnerships: Agriculture, Pharmaceutical Research, and Biomedical Applications. The proposed center will be a single-university center located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (illinois).

    The proposal touts advances in health care and agriculture at the confluence of biotechnology and nanotechnology in a "convergence of frontiers." The emphasis will be on taking bio-nanomedical developments from the bench to benefit agriculture and healthcare. Advances in this center are anticipated to enhance the development of vaccines for food animals, and safety of the food supply, monitoring patients in intensive care and tools to make pharmaceutical research more effective. The proposed center will enable assembly of a cohesive University0Industry alliance that will enable Industry participants to communicate their research needs to academia, to facilitate collaboration between companies in different market spaces, and to train graduate students as effective future leaders.

    Fostering cooperation between the hard core nanotechnology practitioners (mostly coming out of electronics and materials departments) and those in agriculture, biomedicine, and pharma could provide a cross-discipline platform on which to stir the intellectual melting pot and generate innovative solutions. Should CABPN succeed in transitioning the tools of nanotechnology to commercial use in these unrelated fields while gaining synergies from their interaction at the center, it could be a real driver for commercial innovation. Success could produce jobs and improve the life of the nation.

    Education/Dissemination: CABPN has planned an active role in mentoring students and has incorporated them into its overall plan. The proposed Center has a system for outreach to minorities to foster training in nanotechnology to the widest group of individuals possible, and plans to have meetings within the I/UCRC framework to widely disseminate the technologies within the staff of the I/UCRC as well as partnering organizations. Publication of works is also planned and the PI has a path to publication that takes into account the commercial interests of the partner organizations.

    National Center for Professional and Research Ethics

    National Science Foundation Award: Press release
    Nicholas Burbules; Michael Loui; William Mischo
    Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Coordinated Science Laboratory
    University of Illinois Library

    This online center, called the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics, will develop, gather, preserve and provide comprehensive access to resources related to ethics for teachers, students, researchers, administrators and other audiences. As such, it will provide information and expertise for instructors who teach ethics, students with questions about research integrity, researchers and engineers who encounter ethical challenges in practice, administrators in universities and businesses who oversee ethics and compliance policies, scholars who conduct research on professional and research ethics, and others with questions or interests in these areas.

    NetSE: Large: Collaborative Research: Exploiting Multi-Modality for Tele-Immersion

    National Science Foundation Award #1012194
    Klara Nahrstedt
    Computer Science

    Dates: 10/1/10–9/30/16 (estimated)

    Providing an environment that offers both immersion and interaction is a tough research challenge. Ensuring a reasonable Quality of Experience (QoE) in using these environments installed in geographically distributed cities is even a tougher challenge. This project considers a collaborative, immersive, and interactive environment that not only supports 3D rendering of the participants’ video but also other modalities such as Body Sensor Network (BSN) data that can offer highly precise data about a person’s physical movements (as well as physiological data). While creating this environment, one needs to consider the various bottlenecks that choke the data streams carrying the immersive and interactive information: reconstruction delay, ultra-high throughput needed, packet loss, and rendering delays.

    The main aim of this project is to design and develop collaborative, multi-modal immersive environments with higher frame rates and frame quality by carrying out research tasks that can take advantage of information from other modalities and handle these bottlenecks.

    In a typical tele-immersive environment, participants can see themselves in the locally rendered 3D view and see participants in the remote environments as well. Since local rendering delays are much smaller, participants can see themselves earlier and in a more smooth fashion compared to the rendering of remote participants that suffers from communication delays and packet losses. This aspect of varying delays among the immersive participants can potentially cause problems during dynamic interactions and affect their QoE. Answers to questions such as what type of problems can be caused and how the participants handle them depend on the application domain of the immersive environments. To study the QoE and validate (with usability studies) the collaborative, immersive environment, a tele-rehabilitation application will be deployed in multiple cities: Berkeley, California; 2 sites in Dallas, Texas; and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

    Intellectual Merits: (i) The resource adaptation framework for streaming multi-source, multi-destination, multi-rate, multi-modal data incorporates supervisory hybrid control theory based fine-grained resource management, multi-modal coarse-grained management, and a multi-modal multicasting approach. (ii) Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)-based 3D reconstruction and compression algorithms. These algorithms facilitate reconstruction of 3D data points based on 3D camera array data and compress them at a faster pace than their CPU-based counterparts. (iii) GPU-based rendering algorithm of 3D data on the receiver side. This algorithm will handle potential data loss in 3D camera data streams using skeletal information from BSN data streams. (iv) Identification and measurement of Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics and using those metrics to derive Quality of Service (QoS) parameters. The derived QoS parameters will then help the resource adaptation framework to modify its decisions at run-time. This project aims to have transformative aspects in the new set of algorithms that exploits multi-modality while incorporating a feedback based on Quality of Experience for functions such as streaming, 3D reconstruction, and rendering.

    Education Component: This project promises significant impact in the fields of education and pervasive health care by providing augmented abilities to carry out intricate programs such as tele-rehabilitation with increased correctness and flexibility. This can also lead to improved productivity in the society considering the ability of health-care professionals to potentially handle a larger population (in remote places) as well as considering the possibility of the affected persons to become independent and productive faster. The project also ensures the results from the proposed research will be incorporated into the courses being taught. 3 women PhD students and 6 under-graduate students (2 are minority students) already working with the investigators of this project. Serious efforts will be undertaken to continue their involvement in this project. Apart from refereed conference and journal publications, the developed software, collected data, and research results will be shared with other researchers through a dedicated website (after ensuring satisfaction of HIPAA regulations).

    Novel Methods to Assess the Effects of Chemicals on Child Development

    National Institutes of Health Award #1P01ES022848-01
    Susan L. Schantz
    College of Veterinary Medicine

    Dates: June 15, 2013–May 31, 2018 (estimated)

    The primary goals of this Children's Center are to use a multidisciplinary approach to address critical gaps in our knowledge about the impact of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (phthalates/BPA) on child development, to actively involve junior investigators in this research effort, and to actively communicate our research findings to parents, childcare providers and healthcare providers. There are three common themes that unite the three research projects and the Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) of this Center: (1) assessment of exposures during two critical developmental windows (prenatal and adolescent), (2) investigation of joint effects of phthalate/BPA exposure and a high fat diet/obesity, and (3) investigation of the role of oxidative stress and inflammation in mediating effects. At the heart of the research effort will be two human cohorts (Project 1)-a prospective pre-birth cohort currently in progress in Urbana, Illinois and an adolescent cohort to be assessed as part of a long-standing prospective study in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The Center will also include laboratory animal projects (Projects 2 and 3) which will model the timing of exposures in these human cohorts, a COTC, and this administrative core which will provide oversight, coordination and integration of all Center-related activities. The responsibilities of the Administrative Core will include organizing and scheduling monthly meetings of the Internal Advisory Committee and monthly research team meetings of the Center investigators, organizing yearly meetings of the Center scientists with the six-member External Advisory Committee, coordinating the career development activities of the Center, and facilitating interactions of the Pediatric Health Specialist with the COTC to communicate research findings to the healthcare community. As Director and Associate Director of the Children's Center, Drs. Susan Schantz and Jodi Flaws will be responsible for conducting Internal and External Advisory Committee meetings and regularly evaluating the research progress of each of the projects, as well as the outreach activities of the COTC. They will also be responsible for general fiscal oversight of the Center. Dr. Flaws will have full authority to make decisions in Dr. Schantz's absence. Relevance: Phthalates and BPA are endocrine disrupting chemicals that are found in many consumer products. Exposure is widespread, but the impact of this exposure on child health and development is not well-understood. This Center's research will fill an important gap in our knowledge by investigating the effects of these chemicals, both alone and combination with a high fat diet on reproductive and neural development.

    NSF Science and Technology Center: Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems

    National Science Foundation Award #0939511
    Martha Gillette (Co-PI), K. Jimmy Hsia (Co-PI), Lizanne DeStefano, Rashid Bashir
    Mechanical Science and Engineering
    Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Dates: September 15, 2010–August 31, 2015 (estimated)

    The STC on Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS) will develop the science and technology needed to engineer clusters of living cells (biological machines) that have desired functionalities and can perform prescribed tasks: sensing, information processing, actuation, protein expression, and transport elements that can be effectively combined to create functional units. These biological machines could perform tasks such as processing systems that detect toxins in the environment and neutralize them; smart plants that sense and respond to the need for water and nutrients, surrogate organs that are used in place of animals to test new drugs; and biological factories that sequester CO2 in a continuous flow process.

    This STC in engineered biological systems seeks to understand how cell systems interact to produce coordinated, emergent behavior under the control of local micro-environmental cues consisting of biochemical factors and physical stimuli. Single-cell machines or factories hold enormous promise, but multi-cellular systems that incorporate populations of specialized cells assembled into a single integrated unit could have greater impact. New understanding of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions is critical and will require new technological platforms to bridge molecular scale interactions with macroscale behavior of complex biological systems. The proposed research is truly transformative and revolutionary at the interface of science and engineering. EBICS has the potential to enhance understanding of emergent biological behaviors under integrated biochemical and physical cues at the cellular, cell network, and cell population levels.

    Education Component: The outreach and knowledge transfer program seeks to attract more young students into STEM, particularly into the interdisciplinary field of bio-engineering. The Center’s alliance/collaborative research plans with minority-serving institutions will improve participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM. The two-track, integrated graduate program merging the essential sciences and technologies will offer a graduate teaching consortium to offer courses synchronously in all partnering institutions via the internet and international experiences by internships. Graduate courses developed by EBICS will be recorded and made widely and freely accessible through OpenCourseWare. The novel and revolutionary nature of the research will attract the best and the brightest students into this program and strengthen the future US workforce’s global competitiveness. The Center’s potential discoveries could potentially impact critical national needs: energy, the environment, security, and healthcare.

    PFC: Center for the Physics of Living Cells

    National Science Foundation Award #0822613
    Taekjip Ha, Klaus Schulten

    Dates:September 1, 2008–August 31, 2015 (estimated)

    Image of how a cell's biomolecular motor moves. (Illustration by PrecisionGraphics.com)
    Image of how a cell's biomolecular motor moves. (Illustration by PrecisionGraphics.com)

    In the Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC) experimentalists, computational physicists, and theorists will jointly attack the extreme technical challenges posed by quantifying processes in living cells with the sensitivity needed to explore how life organizes itself, weaving molecular systems into the fabric of living matter. Specifically, the Center will: (1) push in vitro single molecule techniques to a 10- to 100-fold increase in sensitivity, spatio-temporal resolution, and throughput for concurrent detection of multiple observables; (2) use synthetic nanostructures to manipulate single molecules, enabling measurements of both forces and molecular conformation with sub-microsecond resolution; (3) observe individual events within single cells, enabling time- and space-resolved studies of gene expression and other key cellular processes; and (4) extend computation to biologically relevant timescales, and theory to greater biological realism, enabling the detailed interpretation of the dynamics of biological systems from the molecular to the cellular level. The interaction between theory, computation, in vitro and in vivo experiments will be at the core of the Center's mission. A concrete example combining these four approaches will be to build a truly quantitative and dynamic physical picture of transcription and translation machinery used by the cell to copy DNA into RNA and then into proteins.

    The Center will provide exciting educational opportunities on and off campus. For Ph.D. students, the Center will build a community around special seminars, symposia, tailored courses, and joint mentoring and help generate a new generation of scientists who are fluent in both physics and biology. This new science will be brought to the undergraduate level in the form of courses, online computing and visualization environments, and a single-molecule laboratory course where they can acquire hands-on experience. The Center will recruit minority students into the REU programs and summer workshops through partnership with primarily minority institutions and participation in two annual scientific meetings for under-represented minorities. At the high school level, the Center will expand an existing programs in which Ph.D. students can act as mentors for teachers on and off campus, introducing visualization tools and modern molecular biology concepts into the classroom. To address young students directly, the Center will establish a pilot program at a girls' middle school. This program will provide contact with students as they begin their formal science education, exposing them to modern biophysical concepts and tools. To the scientific community, the Center will provide visualization and simulation tools to enable the study of macromolecular assemblies and cells. Likewise, the state-of-the-art instrumentation developed by the Center will lead to mainstream applications in biological sciences and is expected to have major commercial impact.

    Plasticity and Avalanches: Connections Between Systems Ranging from Metals to Granular Materials

    National Science Foundation Award #1005209
    Karin Dahmen

    Dates: October 1, 2010–September 30, 2015 (estimated)

    This award supports theoretical research and education to combine concepts from statistical physics, materials science, solid mechanics, engineering, granular mechanics, and metallurgy to advance and unify understanding of how materials respond to external stresses.

    Many systems crackle when they are pushed slowly: Wood can crackle when it is slowly bent. Similarly, small metal or ice crystals deform in a rather jerky way, through a sequence of local slip events that span a broad range of size. In these slip events, weak spots fail in response to the slowly increasing applied shear stress. On a much larger scale, roughly the same phenomenon gives rise to earthquakes, when slow tectonic motion triggers slips of weak spots in the earth's crust. Many other systems exhibit similar failure avalanches, ranging from granular materials to magnets. This project develops a quantitative understanding of the similarities of the avalanche statistics of these systems, many of which were previously studied separately. The goal is to predict to what extent the results and understanding can be transferred from one system to another. Recently, powerful mathematical tools have been developed to answer these questions. These methods will be coupled with computational simulations and comparisons with experiments on plastic deformation of metals, alloys, granular materials, and magnets.

    Results are relevant for a number of applications, including: materials failure predictions and control from nanodevices to bulk materials, nondestructive materials testing, increased materials stability during processing, improved understanding of jamming and avalanches of granular materials, and long-term security of magnetic information storage.

    Education Component: The diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students involved in this project will receive broad interdisciplinary training and will learn to use modern tools from statistical physics, materials science, mechanical engineering, and mathematics. Collaborations with a network of national and international theorists, experimentalists, materials scientists, engineers, and seismologists will be fostered. Simulation codes will be shared with the broader research community.

    Professional Science Masters Program

    Sloan Foundation
    Bryan White, Hans Blaschek, Nicki Engeseth
    Agricultural, Consumer and Economic Sciences

    The Illinois Professional Science Master's (PSM) is a non-thesis graduate program that offers an MS degree, allowing students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics while simultaneously learning critical business skills through an integration of four key curriculum components: science or mathematics courses, "plus" business courses, industry seminar, and internship. Program options include Agricultural Production, Bioenergy, or Food Science and Human Nutrition.

    Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research on Neuroscience)

    National Institutes of Health Award #1R25RR024251
    Barbara Hug
    Neuroscience Program, Curriculum and Instruction, Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education

    Dates: September 29, 2009–June 30, 2014 (estimated)

    Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research On Neuroscience) will bring together scientists, science educators, teachers, and students to develop and disseminate curriculum materials that connect frontier science with national and state science standards. The wide-ranging research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will allow Project NEURON to link NIH-funded neuroscience research with educational research that examines how teachers and students learn. Project NEURON will also help teachers integrate the newly developed materials into existing state curriculum frameworks. Project NEURON will a) develop and disseminate curriculum modules for use in secondary science classrooms; b) improve instructional practices of secondary science teachers; and c) improve student engagement and learning of key science concepts. In addition to developing curriculum modules, the project will 1) create an ongoing series of professional development opportunities for teachers and graduate students; 2) perform a formative and summative evaluation; and 3) provide a dissemination mechanism for the modules, including presentations at science and science education conferences and article submissions to peer-reviewed journals.

    Research Training Program in Enviromental Toxilogy

    National Science Foundation Award #5T32ES007326-12
    Susan L. Schant

    Dates: May 1, 2010–April 30, 2014 (estimated)

    This is a competing continuation application to renew the Research Training Program in Environmental Toxicology. Established in 2000 to help recruit new scientists into this important discipline, the Program educates pre- and postdoctoral trainees in reproductive, developmental and endocrine toxicology. The need to train students and postdoctoral fellows in these aspects of toxicology is every bit as urgent today as it was 10 years ago when the training program was first conceived. Environmental chemicals that act as endocrine disrupters continue to dominate environmental health concerns. The program unites two long recognized areas of research excellence on the University of Illinois campus, environmental toxicology and reproductive biology, and the investigators can count among their preceptors some of the brightest stars on the University of Illinois campus. Several outstanding new preceptors have joined the Program since the last submission (Flaws, Hofmann) and two additional preceptors are added in this renewal application (Boppart, Freund) resulting in a total of 15 preceptors from seven departments (Animal Sciences, Bioengineering, Chemistry, Crop Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Veterinary Biosciences). Together these faculty currently have over 40 federally funded research grants totaling more than $9 million dollars per year direct costs. The preceptors are researching endocrine active chemicals using a broad multidisciplinary perspective. Collaborations among laboratories working at the molecular, cellular, whole animal and human health levels provide trainees with the unique opportunity to directly observe and participate in translational research. Selection of trainees is based on academic success, relevance of proposed research to Program goals and commitment to toxicology. Preference is given to pre-doctoral trainees in their first or second year of graduate study. The Program offers a broad range of graduate level courses in toxicology. In addition to their departmental requirements, all pre-doctoral trainees take basic toxicology, systems toxicology and at least one other advanced toxicology course related to their field of study. Postdoctoral trainees conduct independent research in toxicology. All trainees are required to attend weekly toxicology research seminars, career development workshops, a toxicology journal club and a course on research ethics in toxicology. Trainees are also required to present their research in the seminar and strongly encouraged to present their research at national meetings. The investigators have a strong record of recruiting and retaining qualified students from underrepresented groups and we will continue and expand these efforts. Relevance: This Training Program will train pre- and postdoctoral students to become the next generation of research scientists in endocrine, developmental and reproductive toxicology, subdisciplines of toxicology that are directly relevant to human health.

    REU Site: Passionate on Parallel—A Summer Research Program for Women in STEM

    National Science Foundation Award #1004311
    Susan Larson, Craig Zilles
    Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science

    Dates: May 1, 2010–April 30, 2014 (estimated)

    The computing landscape is changing—parallel computing will be the "default" approach to programming in the future. A central challenge in the transition to parallelism is shortage of workforce with expertise in parallel programming. In this REU, we will train students in the basics of parallel programming, provide them with research experience that demonstrates its importance in their own fields, and help them develop the confidence that they need to be successful in graduate school.

    To enable undergraduates to participate in the revolutionary new capabilities afforded by parallel computing, the REU-POP program (Research Experience for Undergraduates—Passionate on Parallel) at Illinois will recruit ten (10) junior- and senior-level undergraduates majoring in STEM disciplines to participate in a summer research experience in parallel computing and programming relevant to their own fields of study. Recognizing that women are critically underrepresented in academic and professional computer science, qualified students will be especially sought at women's and minority-serving colleges with limited research or graduate-school options. Eligible students will have completed specified computer science courses, but will not be required to have experience in parallel programming, which is rarely available at the undergraduate level.

    REU students will work in pairs (current literature suggests this is a successful learning strategy for women in programming) in small teams that will include a faculty member in their own discipline and a specially trained graduate mentor. Through preparatory online sessions before the POP summer, a four-day immersion session at the start of the POP summer, hands-on learning in their university laboratory, weekly technical sessions, and special seminars on topics such as parallel computing in current technology; research ethics; technology commercialization; and the benefits of graduate school, students will develop essential skills in parallel programming and explore the research options in their own STEM disciplines. Students will also interact with prominent professional and academic researchers to form a network of diverse role models and mentors to provide advice on careers and graduate school options.

    We believe undergraduates can be encouraged to persist in engineering programs, particularly computer science, by engaging them in research, by employing multiple mentoring options, and by providing opportunities for them to work in "programming pairs." The REU-POP program at Illinois will explore these methods within the REU context, and we will report on their success in the open literature to assist others in this effort.

    REU Site: A Passionate on Parallel—A Summer Research Program

    National Science Foundation Award #1263145
    Craig Zilles, Matthew West
    Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science

    Dates: March 15, 2013–February 29, 2016 (estimated)

    This funding renews a highly successful CISE Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that is focused on parallel computing. The transition to "parallelism as the default" will be a change in the computing landscape of the magnitude of the introduction of the Internet. A central challenge in this transition is a shortage of people with expertise in parallelism. This site will train students in the basics of parallel programming, provide them with application-centric research experiences that demonstrate to them the qualitative impact that parallelism can have on computing applications, and help them develop the confidence that they need to be successful in graduate school. The host institution (UIUC) is well known as a center of parallel computing research and will provide an excellent environment for the REU students to learn about the application of parallelism to a range of scientific and computational problems.

    This site will provide the opportunity for 30 undergraduate students (over three years) to develop essential skills in parallel programming in an application-focused research context and to develop a network of mentors, role models, and peers to inform and advise them about performing research, careers in research, and graduate school. A major motivation for the site is improving the retention of women in the sciences, and the PIs have various strategies for addressing this goal. The PIs will disseminate what they learn about engaging women in computer science research, and will also encourage and facilitate publication by the participating students and their mentors.

    REU Site: nano@illinois REU—Summer Nanotechnology Research Experience for Undergraduates

    National Science Foundation Award #1359454
    Catherine Murphy, Umberto Ravaioli
    Chemistry, Micro and Nanotechnology Lab

    Dates: March 1, 2014–February 28, 2017 (estimated)

    The purpose of this project is to establish an REU site in the area of nanotechnology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with support from the NSF Division of Engineering Education and Centers. Students participating in the program will be embedded in a rich environment providing integrated research and educational experiences in a wide range of nanotechnology areas, from nanoelectronics to nanophotonics, nanomaterials and nanobiotechnology. The ultimate goal is to solidify the students' interest in graduate research and education and contribute to the diversity of the national workforce pipeline, through experiences designed not only to expose the participants to cutting edge and interdisciplinary technical aspects of nanotechnology but also to infuse critical thinking, leadership, communication, team-building, and ethics training. Additionally, the assessment and evaluation activities will be embedded throughout the program to determine the effectiveness of the various training components and students will be tracked longitudinally to determine the impact of the program on individuals, institutions and the field as a whole. The REU program will engage ten domestic undergraduate students (rising sophomores to rising seniors) in a ten week summer curriculum on the University of Illinois campus each year, combining a range of common activities (orientations, seminars and workshops) with personalized experiences in the laboratories affiliated with this effort. Students will spend at least 30 hours per week doing research with faculty and graduate student mentors, and will be fully engaged in normal laboratory activities attending group meeting performing literature reviews, running experiments and simulations and keeping laboratory notebooks. Research topics will be assigned matching the interest of the participants and representative projects may include: design of plasmonic nanoparticles for live cell sensing; DNA sequencing through solid state nanopores; design and fabrication of nano-porous conformal films for photonic applications; simulation of charge transport in nanosystems. Capstone of the experience will be participation, during the tenth week of the program, in the campus-wide Illinois Summer Research Symposium where students will present the results of their work.

    Risk-informed Management and Post-disaster Operations of Lifeline Networks by Rapid, Condition-based System Reliability Analysis

    National Science Foundation Award #1031318
    Dennis E. Wenger
    CMMI Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation
    ENG Directorate for Engineering

    Dates: August 15, 2010–January 31, 2015 (estimated)

    The society is increasingly demanding scientific accountability behind risk management of lifeline networks such as hazard mitigation planning, infrastructure maintenance and post-disaster responses. For rapid and condition-based risk management of lifeline networks, it is essential to have system reliability analysis (SRA) methods that can integrate analyses across physical scales, and can interface models and data from multiple fields of science and engineering smoothly for quantifying system-level risk. The proposed project will develop multi-scale SRA methods employing advanced network clustering algorithms for efficient, accurate and collaborative risk assessment of large-size networks. The project will also create a near-real-time network risk alert system through integration of a rapid SRA method with a hazard alert system to facilitate rapid decision support on hazard responses. In addition, an efficient time-varying network SRA method will be developed in which network reliability is continuously updated based on inspection results of network component deterioration in order to sustain the network reliability with optimal use of limited resources.

    The analysis methods and numerical tools developed in this project will help practitioners understand the hierarchical structure of lifeline networks and its impacts on network risk and decision making, develop network risk alert systems customized for actual risk management practice, and perform condition-based maintenance considering actual deterioration progress and its impacts on network-level risk. Education-focused research tasks include the development of interactive cyber-environment on network theory, virtual experiment on network downtime, interactive computer software simulating network flow and connectivity, and mobile phone applications to demonstrate IT-based risk management. The research results will be incorporated into the graduate level courses on risk and reliability of complex infrastructure systems. Active efforts will be made to recruit students from the groups that are underrepresented in science and technology fields using the well-established institutional fellowship programs.

    SHF: Large: Collaborative Research: Designing the Programmable Many-Core for Extreme Scale Computing

    National Science Foundation Award #1347722
    Jose Mestre ,Jonathan Tomkin , Jennifer Greene , Matthew West, Geoffrey Herman
    Physics, Geology, College of Education, College of Education, Mechanical Science and Engineering,
    Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Dates: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2016

    This project is using transformational learning theory and an Immunity-to-Change model as justification for forming Communities of Practice (CoPs) to change the teaching culture in gateway STEM courses at the University of Illinois. The Immunity to Change model focuses on the discomfort caused by the many teaching reforms that take the instructor out of the role of routinely providing expertise to the students as the dominant form of interaction with them. When the same instructors are working in or representing their research, it is important to present themselves in ways that demonstrate their expertise. This dissonance is a barrier to changing the teaching practices of research-active faculty in many instances because the teaching practices require them to take on the role of facilitator rather than expert

    Hence, this project is based on the core idea that teaching in gateway courses should be jointly owned and created by the faculty, rather than being the sole province of individual, independent instructors. This process is being initiated through the formation of Communities of Practice (CoPs) around each undergraduate STEM discipline in ten departments, which are located in two colleges - Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering. Through the CoP process, the teaching culture is changing, as faculty are adapting evidenced-based reforms and changing their instruction in gateway courses. These gateway courses in ten departments in two colleges enroll over 17,000 students annually, and several of the gateway courses are required for nearly all STEM majors on campus. The Community of Practice approach is operating both within each department and also at the aggregate level across all ten departments. Each CoP is collaboratively exploring a domain of knowledge to support the development of improved practice by connecting faculty who need to adapt their teaching to evidence-based pedagogies with faculty whose beliefs already support those pedagogies.

    CoPs are providing an organizational structure that promotes long-term situated learning that is exposing and challenging instructors' tacit beliefs that impede change. CoPs also depend on high levels of collaboration for success and effectively spread tacit knowledge, which decreases the learning curve for novices, reduces creation of redundant resources or reenactments of failures, and promotes creativity. The emphasis on CoPs will further engender common ownership of the reforms, countering the current individualistic teaching culture, thereby institutionalizing the reforms so that they are used in the gateway courses as new faculty are assigned to teach them.

    CoPs are engaging in a development cycle of innovate to evaluate, facilitated by a large evaluation team and an instructional support team. The evaluation team is providing both formative and summative feedback to CoPs using both qualitative (e.g., student attitudes) and quantitative (e.g., performance outcomes) measures that are in turn being used to improve teaching and learning. In addition, the evaluation team is also studying the functioning of the CoPs, including the extent to which teams are operating as CoPs, and providing detailed descriptions of features of effective and less effective CoPs. The instructional support team is providing just-in-time training to the CoPs by attending their weekly meetings and organizing monthly gatherings for all CoPs. The remaining PIs are working to maintain the top-down administrative support from deans and department heads to sustain the bottom-up reform efforts of the CoPs.

    SHF: Large: Collaborative Research: Designing the Programmable Many-Core for Extreme Scale Computing

    National Science Foundation 1012759
    Hong Jiang
    CCF Division of Computer and Communication Foundations
    CSE Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering

    Dates: September 1, 2010–August 31, 2014 (estimated)

    The society is increasingly demanding scientific accountability behind risk management of lifeline networks such as hazard mitigation planning, infrastructure maintenance and post-disaster responses. For rapid and condition-based risk management of lifeline networks, it is essential to have system reliability analysis (SRA) methods that can integrate analyses across physical scales, and can interface models and data from multiple fields of science and engineering smoothly for quantifying system-level risk. The proposed project will develop multi-scale SRA methods employing advanced network clustering algorithms for efficient, accurate and collaborative risk assessment of large-size networks. The project will also create a near-real-time network risk alert system through integration of a rapid SRA method with a hazard alert system to facilitate rapid decision support on hazard responses. In addition, an efficient time-varying network SRA method will be developed in which network reliability is continuously updated based on inspection results of network component deterioration in order to sustain the network reliability with optimal use of limited resources.

    The analysis methods and numerical tools developed in this project will help practitioners understand the hierarchical structure of lifeline networks and its impacts on network risk and decision making, develop network risk alert systems customized for actual risk management practice, and perform condition-based maintenance considering actual deterioration progress and its impacts on network-level risk. Education-focused research tasks include the development of interactive cyber-environment on network theory, virtual experiment on network downtime, interactive computer software simulating network flow and connectivity, and mobile phone applications to demonstrate IT-based risk management. The research results will be incorporated into the graduate level courses on risk and reliability of complex infrastructure systems. Active efforts will be made to recruit students from the groups that are underrepresented in science and technology fields using the well-established institutional fellowship programs.

    SI2-SSE: Adaptive Software for Quantum Chemistry

    National Science Foundation Award #1102418
    So Hirata

    Dates: October 1, 2010–August 31, 2014 (estimated)

    The goal of this project is to establish a new paradigm of scientific software, electing quantum chemistry as the domain science. The new software does not have a static, compiled code, but instead consists of an expert system and code generator. At every execution, it analyzes the hardware and application parameters, determines (parallel) algorithms, and implements them for one-time use. This strategy not only allows unprecedented flexibility in algorithm optimization but can also realize ideas that are impossible otherwise. Since the approach makes no assumption about hardware or application, it is more extensible, maintainable, and portable. It is particularly well suited for chemistry, where a variety of molecules and reactions is infinite.

    The expected long-term impact of this project is a change in the way scientific and engineering computing software is developed and defined. It promises novel software technology, which simultaneously achieves development efficiency, high product quality, and increased ability to optimize the code and enhance the methodological capabilities, by having no fixed source code.

    Education Component: This project also offers unique, interdisciplinary education for chemistry graduate students, which places exceptionally large focus on computing, the field that has been a driving force of the 21st century economy.

    SHF: Small: Research on New Challenges in EDA

    National Science Foundation Award #1017516
    Martin D. F. Wong
    Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Dates: September 1, 2010–August 31, 2014 (estimated)

    Micro-chips are at the heart of modern microelectronic systems for computing, communication, entertainment, and other consumer electronics. In order to design and manufacture next generations of complex microelectronic systems, major innovations in the design of EDA (electronic design automation) software are needed. This project addresses four new challenges in EDA for complex microelectronic systems at both the micro-chip and the circuit board levels:

    1. Beyond-die EDA: The routing (wiring) of today’s high-density complex circuit boards has to be done manually since no existing EDA software can solve the problem. Research will be carried out in circuit board routing to handle various new technology issues.
    2. Litho-aware EDA: Since there is no alternative practical option but to continue using 193nm light to print (manufacture) on-chip features of size 32nm and below, accurate printing has become extremely difficult. EDA software will be developed to produce designs that are friendly to lithography for successful micro-chip manufacturing.
    3. GPU EDA: Graphics processing unit (GPU) has become a popular cost-effective parallel computing platform recently. How to take advantage of GPU to accelerate critical EDA tasks is a challenge and will be studied.
    4. Stochastic EDA: In order to handle process variations in advanced technology nodes, EDA software will be designed to solve fundamental graph optimization problems (e.g., shortest path, minimum spanning tree, and network flow etc.) where edge weights (costs) are random variables.

    The proposed research will advance knowledge in EDA. It will also add new knowledge to other fields such as mathematical programming and combinatorial optimization since ultimately the research will need to solve large scale optimization problems.

    Education Component: The broader impacts of this project include technology advancement and the education of next generation of engineers. The proposed research improves the design and manufacturing of microelectronic systems which will benefit the society at large. New research results will be passed on to undergraduate and graduate students through dissertation research, course projects, homework, and classroom teaching.

    Student Use of Digital Learning Materials: Implications for the NSDL

    National Science Foundation Award #1049537
    Glenda Morgan
    Office of the Chief Information Officer

    Dates: September 15, 2010–June 30, 2014 (estimated)

    This large-scale national project is investigating how undergraduate students in STEM disciplines use digital learning materials. Much of the work already done by the National STEM Digital Library (NSDL)—especially by the NSDL large "Pathways" collections)—assumes that students will be directly connected to the content in the collections, or that they will otherwise find and use the digital resources from collections in ways that assist the depth of their learning. However, little is known about how undergraduates use digital resources. This study will develop a better understanding of the extent and nature of undergraduate use and it will begin to determine the value of digital learning materials to undergraduates. The project is:

    1. Examining how undergraduates use digital and distributed learning resources and collections
    2. Documenting how and why they use these resources
    3. Examining the impact of that use on their learning
    4. Exploring student perceptions of barriers to the use of NSDL services and programs

    Following these information collection tasks, the project will begin a second stage to:

    1. Identify possible strategies for overcoming barriers to use of digital libraries and distributed learning resources by undergraduate STEM students
    2. Disseminate the tools developed in this study for use by NSDL projects in developing individual benchmarks regarding their own usage, and
    3. Establish baseline data for future studies of NSDL usage and impact

    Sustained-Petascale In Action: Blue Waters Enabling Transformative Science And Engineering

    National Science Foundation Award #1238993
    William Kramer, William Gropp, Cristina Beldica
    National Center for Supercomputing Application, Computer Science

    Dates: 10/1/2013 – 3/31/2018 (estimated)

    This a renewal award to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to operate Blue Waters, which is a leadership class compute, network, and storage system, that will deliver unprecedented large scale and highly usable computing capabilities to the national research community. Blue Waters provides the capability for researchers to tackle much larger and more complex research challenges across a wide spectrum of domain than can be done now, and opens up entirely new possibilities and frontiers in science and engineering. This system is located at the newly constructed National Petascale Computing Facility at UIUC.

    This award enables investigators across the country to conduct innovative research in a number of areas including: using three-dimensional, compressible, finite difference, magneto hydrodynamic (MHD) codes to understand how internal solar magneto convection powers the Sun's activity, and how that activity heats the chromosphere and corona and accelerates charged particles to relativistic energies; applying adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) technologies to study flows of partially ionized plasma in the outer heliosphere; implementing multiscale methods to study protein induced membrane remodeling key steps of the HIV viral replication cycle and clathrin coated pit formation in endocytosis; testing of the hypothesis that transport fluxes and other effects associated with cloud processes and ocean mesoscale eddy mixing are significantly different from the theoretically derived averages embodied in the parameterizations used in current-generation climate models; and, exploring systems-of-systems engineering design challenges to discover optimal many-objective satellite constellation design tradeoffs that include Earth science applications. Large allocations of resources on the new system have been awarded to scientists and engineers by NSF through a separate peer-reviewed competition. .

    The Blue Waters system and project are aligned with NSF's Advanced Computing Infrastructure Strategy to promote next generation computational and data intensive applications. These applications are being developed by multiple teams of researchers who will revolutionize and transform our knowledge of science and engineering across many disciplines. The system supports new modalities of computation, new programming models, enhanced system software, accelerator technologies and novel storage. The robust design and configuration of Blue Waters ensures that it will meet the evolving needs of the diverse science and engineering communities over the full lifetime of the system. The broader impacts of this award include: provisioning unique infrastructure for research and education; accelerating education and training in the use of advanced computational science; training new users on how to use petascale computing techniques; promoting an exchange of information between academia and industry about the petascale applications; and broadening participation and collaborations in computational science with other research institutions and projects nationally and internationally.

    Surface and Interface Free Energies of Epitaxial Nanocrystals

    National Science Foundation Award #1006077
    Jian-Min Zuo; Dallas Trinkle Materials Science and Engineering

    Dates: July 1, 2010–June 30, 2014 (estimated)

    Substantial parts of materials technology, major components of chemical industry, and exciting new developments in medical diagnostics and treatments rely on the properties of supported metallic nanoparticles. The unusual functions of metallic nanoparticles come from the synergistic interactions of surfaces and interfaces of nanoparticles and their support. However, modern studies have largely avoided the complexity of supported nanoparticles; nanoparticles are too small for experimental characterization and too big for rigorous theoretical investigations. This project is to study nanocrystal surfaces and interfaces by taking advantage of the recent progress in atomic resolution imaging using aberration-correction in transmission electron microscopy and combining it with nanocrystal synthesis and theory. The research will be integrated with outreach efforts, including high school visits and undergraduate education. Results from this research project will be incorporated in the web-based educational materials for teaching students about atomic structure and diffraction, infrastructure for which is already in place (see http://emaps.mrl.illinois.edu/ or google webemaps). This particular website is now listed as one of the best web resources for learning electron diffraction and electron diffraction pattern indexing in the standard transmission electron microscopy workplace.

    Synthesis and Tribological Behavior of Metal Diboride-Nitride Coatings: Optimizing the Hard and Compliant Response

    National Science Foundation Award #1030657

    Alexis Lewis
    CMMI Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation
    ENG Directorate for Engineering

    Dates: September 1, 2010–August 31, 2014 (estimated)

    The research objective of this award is to develop mechanically hard and wear-resistant tribological coatings such that: (a) the coating process affords high conformality (i.e., uniform thickness everywhere within reentrant shapes); (b) the coating provides low friction, and low wear under normal operating conditions; and (c) the tribological performance is stable and predictable under extreme operating conditions, such as high load and high temperature. Specifically, low-temperature chemical vapor deposition is used to deposit coatings of the transition metal diborides HfB2, CrB2, and TiB2 using single-source, impurity-free precursors such as Hf(BH4)4. Alloying with nitrogen affords HfBxNy coatings that have a variable elastic compliance; alloying with Cr is used to enhance oxidation resistance; and multilayer coatings are synthesized to engineer the relationship between hardness and elastic response, which affects the tribological behavior.

    If successful, the results of this research will have a significant impact: it will enable the development of advanced devices that are free of lubricants and which have excellent lifetime under aggressive operating conditions. These include, but are not limited to, energy-efficient and oil-free compressors and microelectromechanical-based sensing and actuating devices. Graduate and undergraduate engineering students benefit through involvement in the research. Students spend summer time at Sandia National Laboratories, as well as have direct interaction with both Sandia and Emerson Climate Technologies. The results are broadly disseminated by presentations at domestic and international professional conferences, by publication in upper-tier peer-reviewed scientific journals, by seminars given at university and industrial laboratories, and by news stories that discuss the work as well as the critical role of the National Science Foundation.

    The Applied Baccalaureate Degree: An Emerging Pathway to Technician Education

    National Science Foundation Award #1003297
    Debra Bragg
    Expires: July 31, 2014 (Estimated)

    The multi-method multi-site targeted research project examines the Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degree within the context of technician education as supported by the Advanced Technological Education Program. The AB degree is a new phenomenon in post-secondary education that allows courses from a terminal applied associate-level degree to transfer directly into a baccalaureate-level degree in STEM. The AB degree provides another avenue to strengthen the accessibility and availability of post secondary education in advanced technology and to meet the growing need for a robust advanced technological workforce in STEM.

    Intellectual Merit: This study is designed to bridge the gap between theory and practice in technician education by the inclusion of the Advanced Technological Education program community in fine turning the research design (to include questions, analyses, and focus on utilization) and in conducting the research. To increase the utilization of project findings, selected PIs of ATE centers and projects are members of the research team. The set of research questions is sufficiently broad to provide a national picture of AB degree programs and targeted to provide a nuanced picture of AB degree programs and efforts in the context of ATE-funded centers and projects. The three-phase study design provides a wide bandwidth complemented by in-depth rich descriptions of individual sites. The project draws on previous work on the AB degree by the principal investigator and a broad network of interested parties that include community colleges and ATE centers and project.

    Broader Impact: Of particular relevance to technician education is the extent to which AB degree programs enroll populations historically underserved by STEM. The resulting findings have the potential to contribute to the research literature on technician education, the viability of AB degree programs in post-secondary education in STEM, the contributions of community colleges in the development of a robust technician workforce in STEM associated with these types of degree programs, and the opportunities and challenges facing the development of AB degree programs that interface with technician education.

    The Smallest Bit: Ultimate Limits of Phase Change in Nanometer-Scale Memory Devices

    National Science Foundation Award #1002026
    John M. Zavada
    ECCS Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems
    ENG Directorate for Engineering
    Expires: July 31, 2014 (Estimated)

    The objective of this research is to investigate the ultimate scaling of phase change memory de-vices, below 10 nm bit size. Phase-change materials (PCM) undergo a reversible phase change accompanied by a drastic change in resistivity, induced by electric and temperature fields. PCM are prime candidates for fast, high-density memory with ultra-low power consumption. Such a technology would enable scaling of memory devices much beyond the present state of the art, represented by Flash memory or other charge storage devices like DRAM or SRAM. The ap-proach is to investigate the fundamentals of nanometer-scale electric and temperature fields that induce phase change, resulting in an understanding of the smallest data bits that can be formed in PCM. Specifically, the proposed work will perform experiments and simulations that determine the smallest addressable PCM bit using scanning probe techniques and carbon nanotubes as the electrodes.

    The intellectual merit of the proposed research lies in its thorough approach for achieving inde-pendent control of nanometer-scale electric fields and temperature distributions in PCM. In turn, these will allow a significant advance in understanding the behavior of materials used in phase change memory.

    The research will achieve broad impact by providing information about the ultimate speed, size, and longevity limits of future data storage systems. This new understanding could bring about radical changes in consumer electronics devices. The research will achieve additional broad im-pact through web-enabled communication, and personal interactions with high school teachers, undergraduate students, graduate researchers, and U.S. industry.

    Two-Dimensional and Magic Size Layers of Metal Thiolates: Synthesis and Nanocalorimetry Characterization

    National Science Foundation Award #1006385
    Michael J. Scott
    DMR Division of Materials Research
    MPS Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences
    Expires: July 30, 2014 (Estimated)

    The objective of this research is to investigate the ultimate scaling of phase change memory de-vices, below 10 nm bit size. Phase-change materials (PCM) undergo a reversible phase change accompanied by a drastic change in resistivity, induced by electric and temperature fields. PCM are prime candidates for fast, high-density memory with ultra-low power consumption. Such a technology would enable scaling of memory devices much beyond the present state of the art, represented by Flash memory or other charge storage devices like DRAM or SRAM. The ap-proach is to investigate the fundamentals of nanometer-scale electric and temperature fields that induce phase change, resulting in an understanding of the smallest data bits that can be formed in PCM. Specifically, the proposed work will perform experiments and simulations that determine the smallest addressable PCM bit using scanning probe techniques and carbon nanotubes as the electrodes.

    The intellectual merit of the proposed research lies in its thorough approach for achieving inde-pendent control of nanometer-scale electric fields and temperature distributions in PCM. In turn, these will allow a significant advance in understanding the behavior of materials used in phase change memory.

    The research will achieve broad impact by providing information about the ultimate speed, size, and longevity limits of future data storage systems. This new understanding could bring about radical changes in consumer electronics devices. The research will achieve additional broad im-pact through web-enabled communication, and personal interactions with high school teachers, undergraduate students, graduate researchers, and U.S. industry.

    Illiois Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Mathematics Education 

    Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Award #R305B100017
    Sarah Lubienski, Arthur Baroody, and Joseph Robinson
    Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Psychology

    Expires: 2015 (estimated)

    This new mathematics education research-training program supports three-year positions offering collaborative and independent research opportunities. The program prepares fellows to address questions relevant to mathematics instruction and policy in a methodologically rigorous manner and to serve as leaders in improving U.S. mathematics teaching and learning for diverse populations. Specific research projects will be based upon the joint interests of the fellow and the Illinois faculty mentor(s). Three core faculty members will serve as program mentors: Dr. Sarah Theule Lubienski (mathematics achievement, equity, and reform; expertise in both qualitative and quantitative methods, including multi-level modeling of classroom and large-scale data); Dr. Arthur J. Baroody (non-experimental and experimental studies on the teaching and learning of basic number, counting, and arithmetic, with a particular focus on young children or those with learning difficulties); and Dr. Joseph P. Robinson (effects of policies and practices on the academic outcomes of English learners, expert in quasi-experimental research methods). Sixteen affiliated faculty members also participate in program activities. Trainees are recruited from education, related social sciences (economics, psychology, sociology), mathematics, statistics, and other suitable fields.

    Underrepresented Undergraduates in STEM at Large Research Universities: From Matriculation to Degree Completion

    National Science Foundation Award #0856309
    William Trent
    Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership

    Dates: August 1, 2009–July 31, 2014 (estimated)

    This is a three-year study that is examining the matriculation, persistence, and degree attainment of full-time, first-time enrolled women, minorities, and low-income undergraduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields at a consortium of 11 large research universities. This project is using statistical and qualitative research methods to identify key individual and institutional factors that affect underrepresented students' matriculation, persistence, and degree completion in the STEM fields. It is evaluating the impact of course offerings, policies and practices, and program interventions designed to increase educational outcomes. This study is contributing to understanding by using large samples of underrepresented students and placing them into meaningful categories (by racial/ethnic sub-group, academic preparation, and STEM major), as well as the intersection with critical demographic characteristics, such as socioeconomic status.

    The findings from the study are intended to increase understanding about how postsecondary institutions can use mechanisms and program interventions to improve the persistence and degree attainment of underrepresented students in the STEM fields. The study will benefit the academic community by creating a graduate-level course to be offered to students enrolled at any CIC institution to discuss the empirical, methodological, policy, and program issues that impact the representation of women and minorities in the STEM fields, with specific attention to students attending large, research universities.

    Understanding and Enhancing Post-Combustion Multi-Pollutant Control with Carbon-Based Materials

    National Science Foundation Award #1034470
    Mark Rood
    Civil and Environmental Engineering

    Dates: August 15, 2012–July 31, 2014 (estimated)

    The research, educational, and outreach components of this project will allow for the development of unique carbon materials that allow for reduction in emissions of several high and low concentration gas phase pollutants with continuous dissemination of results to all levels of education. NOx, mercury (Hgo/Hg2+), and dioxins/furans (PCDD/F) are emitted from a wide range of sources, including emissions from coal-fired power plants. NOx contributes to acid rain and secondary aerosol formation resulting in ozone, which causes health effects and visibility degradation. Mercury leads to enriched concentrations and heightened toxicity in lake sediments, animals, and humans, while PCDD/Fs are known to be excessively toxic and carcinogenic. Stricter air quality regulations strive to protect human health and welfare. This research will develop new technologies to enhance our ability to consume less toxic materials, prevent the emission of these pollutants to the environment, and provide for a more sustainable existence.

    The intellectual merit of achieving multi-pollutant control involves an international research team at Illinois, URS, Inc., and National Central University, Taiwan, uniquely qualified to study the ability of custom and commercially available carbons to achieve multi-pollutant transformations and removal of toxic air pollutants from flue gas streams. Results will be interpreted and disseminated through national/international collaborations and conferences, educational programs at Illinois, peer-reviewed literature, and K-12 educational programs.

    Broader impacts of this research will effectively integrate research results with K-12 and college undergraduate/graduate education. The key K-12 component is to make students aware of and more interested in engineering solutions to solve environmental issues. Results will be disseminated not only through conventional research conferences and manuscripts, but also via classroom demonstration modules, web-based modules, and in collaboration with The STEM Education Coalition, supported by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Underrepresented research assistants at the undergraduate level will be recruited through NSF’s supplemental REU Program, and collaboration is planned with college students abroad.

    University of Illinois Mathematics GAANN Fellowship Project

    US Department of Education Award #P200A090062
    Karen Mortensen, Randy McCarthy

    URM: Mentoring in 'New Biology' with a Focus on Latino Undergraduate Students

    National Science Foundation Award #1041233
    Gustavo Caetano-Anolles; Sandra Rodriguez-Zas
    Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences
    Life Sciences

    Dates: September 1, 2010–August 31, 2014 (estimated)

    This Undergraduate Research and Mentoring (URM) program will provide one-year research experiences in quantitative biology and informatics to four cohorts of scholars, starting in the summer of 2011 and continuing through 2015. Each cohort consists of seven students who will explore problems using integrative quantitative inquiry. This program seeks to enhance the pool of multicultural and multidisciplinary workforce of scientists and professionals by offering experiential learning opportunities in computational and wet laboratories, as well as academic and career development activities, to community college students. Recruitment will be through collaborating Hispanic-serving institutions. The program will also provide long-term mentoring and will encourage family support and participation. Students will be able to select from topics in plant and animal bioinformatics, quantitative genetics and plant breeding, statistical genomics, architecture of complex traits, food nanotechnology, biological system modeling, and statistics for agriculture. Students will participate in (1) a 12-week, summer, intensive research immersion experience, (2) mentor-guided academic year research, and (3) an optional second summer internship experience. The research will be complemented with academic and career advancement, network development, and support activities. Project evaluation will assess the quality of research, oral presentations, and student and mentor interactions, as well as skills assessment using pre and post test instruments and student feedback on the program.

    Vertically Integrated Training With Genomics (VInTG) IGERT

    National Science Foundation Award #1069157
    Andrew Suarez, Gene Robinson, William McMillan, Carla Caceres, Sandra Rodriguez-Zas
    Institute for Genomic Biology, School of Integrative Biology

    Dates: September 1, 2011–August 31, 2016 (estimated)

    Vertically Integrated Training With Genomics (VInTG) will provide support for as many as 30 graduate students over the next five years. Students will learn ways to both ask and answer the big research questions of the coming decades, says principal investigator Andrew Suarez, associate professor of Animal Biology and Entomology and IGB affiliate.

    VInTG will address two "grand challenges" in biology: How do genomes interact with the environment to produce biological diversity? and How are biological systems integrated from molecules to ecosystems? Answering these questions will help both science and society determine how to maintain food security under climate change; how to integrate genetics and ecology to study emerging infectious diseases; and how organisms' responses to climate change influence biodiversity and ecosystem function.