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The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Central Florida an $800,000 grant to help build a partnership with the University of Washington that will accelerate research in the areas of Ultrafast Dynamics and Catalysis in Emerging Materials. UCF was one of 10 universities selected across the nation for the award.

The funding, through the NSF’s Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program, provides seed money to establish an NSF research center to provide UCF students from underrepresented communities an opportunity to actively participate in world-class research in highly diverse and interdisciplinary environments.

“The University of Washington (UW) is regarded as one of the most innovative, public universities of the world with over $1.6 billion in sponsored grants and research funding,” says UCF Professor of Physics Saiful Khondaker, the principal investigator on the grant and director of the center.

“UCF is an emerging metropolitan research university with a rich diversity of students,” Khondaker. “We both have strengths in the areas of ultrafast dynamics (quantum technology) and catalysis and so it’s a great partnership. This seed funding will help us set up a robust program that will benefit not only our students, but the nation.”

The team will focus on two areas of research. One group will focus on ultrafast dynamics, which is the study of processes in very short time scales in quantumaterials. Advances in this area may produce quantum information processing technologies, the kind of technology that could revolutionize how large amounts of data can be processed and shared securely and efficiently in the future. A second group will focus on catalysis — the study of how single atoms can be harnessed for conducting chemical reactions without consuming large amounts of energy. Advances in this area may lead to environmental technologies that can help secure a carbon free future for our planet.

The grant funding will also establish an exchange program where four UCF doctoral students and 10-12 undergraduates will travel to the UW to work in some of its most unique labs that focus on material sciences. UW faculty will work with UCF faculty to mentor the students as well. Conferences will be coordinated together and a summer program for interested high school students will also be established to help introduce younger students to this career.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to work with UCF students and faculty on such exciting materials research problems, and about using this PREM support to help strengthen research and education ties between our two institutions,” says UW Professor of Chemistry Daniel Gamelin, who is a co-investigator on the grant and director of UW’s Molecular Engineering Materials Center (MEM-C), an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)

The rest of the grant team are UCF Associate Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering Parag Banerjee, Associate Professor of Physics Madhab Neupane and Michael Chini, Assistant Professors of Physics Zhongzhou Chen, and Mihai Vaida, and Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Fudong Liu and UW Professor of Chemistry Xiaosong Li.