A strong partnership between Fort Lewis College (FLC), Norfolk State University (NSU), and STROBE creates the PREM for Functional Nanomaterials. This collaboration integrates education and research across FLC (a non-tribal Native American Serving Institution), NSU (a member of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and STROBE (an NSF Science and Technology Center for Functional Real-Time Imaging). This PREM proposal is unique in that STROBE is teaming with not just one, but two diverse institutions to synergize our research and education efforts and to make a greater impact. The goals for the PREM for Functional Nanomaterials are to create a diverse and inclusive community that focuses on cutting edge material science that explores the multi-scale interplay of atomic and meso-scale structure and emergent physical phenomena; exciting applications that attract a diverse group to STEM; novel and effective curricula and pathways that recruit and retain the best in STEM; and long-term assessment to improve our strategies and share best practices.
Our partnership is very strategic: STROBE is a cutting-edge imaging science and technology center, but it does not have extensive synthesis capabilities or expertise. NSU has extensive world-class capabilities in material growth and synthesis, while FLC has expertise and infrastructure for material characterization and nanofabrication. From a research perspective, this partnership leverages the complimentary capabilities and expertise of each institution that is much more than the sum of its parts. The PREM for Functional Nanomaterials will connect diverse communities together, in gender, discipline, race, ethnicity, and geographical context (urban and rural, across the US). The recruitment and retention challenges that NSU and FLC are facing are not uncommon: thus, by connecting FLC and NSU, both very different institutions facing common challenges, and the recently formed STROBE NSF Science and Technology Center, this PREM for functional nanomaterials builds effective community that fully integrates innovative education pathways, career development, effective networks, and exciting research that leads to long-term careers in STEM. The STROBE community is exceptionally diverse, including students, postdocs, faculty, and staff (>2.5x the national averages in physics/electrical engineering). Thus, this partnership will connect the three nodes, providing inspiring role models, unique materials fabrication and characterization resources, and a long-term network of support for STEM careers. Over the next six years, our PREM will directly fund ≈70 undergraduate researchers and ≈24 high school researchers at FLC and NSU, and ≈3 research associates at NSU. Undergraduates will be encouraged to engage long-term in different aspects of material science research, by alternating paid part-time research positions during the semester, with intense 10-week summer research experience, all paired with student and faculty exchanges. We are confident that the PREM for functional nanomaterials will have a strong long lasting impact on the participating students’ careers, those of their peers, the educational capacities of the participating institutions, and on the national material science community.