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LSU researchers awarded 1 of the largest NSF grants in Louisiana history

BATON ROUGE Researchers at LSU, together with those at universities across the state, recently received one of Louisiana's largest grants ever from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Applications (LA-SiGMA) received $20 million in NSF support.

The alliance is led by LSU Professors Mark Jarrell of the Department of Physics & Astronomy and Randall Hall of the Department of Chemistry, Louisiana Tech University Professor Ramu Ramachandran of chemistry and Tulane Professor Lawrence Pratt of chemical and bimolecular engineering.

Centered in the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, or LONI, Institute, LA-SiGMA includes twenty-three faculty members from the Departments of Physics & Astronomy, Chemistry, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Biological and Agricultural Engineering and the Center for Computation and Technology, or CCT. The NSF grant came through the Louisiana Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, which is housed at the Louisiana Board of Regents. The LA-SiGMA grant is a Track 1 Research Infrastructure Improvement grant, which will award the funds over a total of five years.

"The formation of LA-SiGMA through the support of this NSF EPSCoR grant will enable Louisiana to position itself to transform research and education in computational materials science, a relatively young field," said Michael Khonsari, Dow Chemical Endowed Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of Louisiana's EPSCoR program. "The alliance, which will include more than 100 faculty, postdoctoral researchers and students, will be sustained by collaborations involving shared students and postdoctoral researchers, interdisciplinary programs in computational materials, and shared courses taught via HD video."

LA-SiGMA will focus on materials science research that will impact the modern materials driving today's technologies. It creates a statewide research and education program focusing on three science drivers: electronic, energy and biomolecular materials. The alliance capitalizes on the jurisdiction's cyberinfrastructure and past investments in experimental and computational materials science. Program objectives include building the next generation of experimentally validated formalisms, algorithms and codes for multiscale materials simulations; implementing them on present and next generation supercomputers; and educating the next generation of a highly skilled workforce of materials scientists and engineers.

"Individual Louisiana institutions do not have a critical mass of researchers to address the challenges described in the proposal," said Hall. "LA-SiGMA will build this critical mass by supporting collaborations between scientists and engineers at different institutions through shared graduate students and courses. A confluence of experimental and computational facilities, together with directed intellectual collaboration, will allow LA-SiGMA to have a transformational affect on materials science in Louisiana."

Elements of LA-SiGMA will include:

An education plan that includes new materials science graduate courses delivered across the state;

Well-developed relationships between research universities, two-year colleges and the K-12 community through ongoing outreach efforts;

Strong partnerships between Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, two-year colleges and other universities in the state;

Involvement of predominantly undergraduate institutions as partners in research;

A team focused on training students and researchers to fully utilize the next generation cyberinfrastructure;

Multifaceted diversity, workforce development and external engagement plans including relationships with industries through researchers, industry liaisons and the state EPSCoR committee; and

Rigorous evaluation and assessment by an external evaluator, and feedback through an external review board to ensure that goals and objectives of the project are met.

"Together LONI Institute and LA-SiGMA form an incredibly powerful and perhaps unique support network for computational materials and biological sciences. The LONI Institute provided funds to hire 12 faculty throughout the states in computational materials and biological sciences as well as a support staff of computational scientists," said Jarrell. "LA-SiGMA builds upon this structure with $20 million in funding to support these scientists and others and build a critical mass of researchers in these areas. Together, these resources will establish Louisiana as an internationally recognized leader in computational materials and biology and allow us to pursue resources needed to establish the first federally funded center of excellence in the state."


Contact: Ashley Berthelot
Louisiana State University

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