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Two new UW partnerships funded by NSF seed grants

Submitted by Diana Knight on September 3, 2021 - 11:31am

UW will work with UCF and UHawai'i over the next three years to build STEM career pathways for underserved Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students.

Faculty and students with the Molecular Engineering Materials Center (MEM-C) at the UW are looking forward to hosting visitors from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHawai'i) in the next three years as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM).

“These awards will lay the groundwork for developing new educational pathways for underserved minority students to pursue a career in STEM. At the same time, these partnerships aim to strengthen the campus wide effort to promote a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive educational environment,” says UW Chemistry Professor Xiaosong Li, who is a co-investigator on the grant and executive director of education and outreach for UW’s Molecular Engineering Materials Center (MEM-C), an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).

The UCF/UW PREM program aims to study ultrafast dynamics and catalysis in emerging materials such as topological insulators, 2D materials, oxide-based materials and plasmonic materials. MEM-C faculty at the UW will host up to four exchange students for three months of summer work each year of the project and facilitate MEM-C faculty visits to UCF. MEM-C faculty will train and supervise the UCF exchange students and closely collaborate with UCF faculty to conduct research involving materials synthesis, spectroscopic characterization, and computational designs of nanomaterials. MEM-C faculty will design and create online instructional materials, collaboratively develop courses, and host monthly meetings. MEM-C and UCF faculty will closely collaborate for the success of the proposed projects and expect that scientific publications will result from their work in ultrafast dynamics and catalysis.

The UHawai'i/UW PREM program aims to design, develop, and deploy new complex nanomaterials that accelerate future technologies in broad sectors including information processing, sensing, energy, and research tools. MEM-C faculty will host up to five exchange students and six faculty visitors to conduct collaborative research at the UW involving materials synthesis, spectroscopic characterization, and computational designs of nanomaterials. Like the UCF partnership, UW faculty hosts will train and supervise UHawai'i students, collaborate with UHawai'i faculty, and expect to publish their work on nanomaterials.

NSF PREM seed grants support minority-serving institutions to begin building partnerships with large-scale, NSF-supported research centers and facilities and will prepare these partnerships to compete for a full PREM award at the end of the three-year seed award. In total, NSF funded ten new PREM seed awards in this cycle. Each seed grant totals $800,000 and will cover stipend and travel expenses for graduate and undergraduate students from these partner institutions to visit the UW campus for collaborative research experiences and for UW graduate and undergraduate students to visit the partner campuses, as well as supporting additional PREM collaborative research and educational activities at each institution.

For more on the NSF PREM program and the seed grants, visit
For more on the UCF/UW PREM partnership, visit UCF Today.
For more on the UHM/UW PREM partnership, visit
For more on MEM-C, visit