A new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support 30 graduate students working in the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) on the development of materials to advance sustainable living. The students will work on projects ranging from the development of renewable alternatives to petroleum-based feedstocks used in consumer polymers, to the design of inexpensive, nanostructured materials for solar cells.
The new program, called A Graduate Traineeship in Materials for a Sustainable Future, is supported by a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the NSF, recently awarded under the agency's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program.
Six graduate students from various scientific fields have been awarded two-year IGERT fellowships for 2009-10, and support for another class of six fellows is expected in 2010-11. Coming from such departments as materials science, chemistry, physics and fiber science, the students will conduct sustainable materials-related research.
Interdisciplinary in nature, the program's purpose is to train students not only in their specific fields, but also to develop tomorrow's engaged and informed scientists, explained principal investigator Paul Chirik, the Peter J.W. Debye Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The students are required to have a second faculty adviser outside their home department to bring fresh perspective to their research and broaden their outlook.
"First and foremost, the program is an opportunity to conduct outstanding scientific research," Chirik said.
The IGERT program will include a new graduate-level course that will focus both on the principles and techniques necessary for sustainable design, as well as important skills for career success, such as public speaking and scientific ethics.
The course will include a module taught by Stuart Hart, the Samuel C. Johnson Professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Johnson School, on the intersection of science and business when it comes to a more sustainable planet.
"The module will give students a different view of what sustainability means -- how it must be practically implemented, and what the business models are for sustainable design," Chirik said.
The IGERT fellows will also host a student-run seminar series raising awareness of the technical challenges and scientific opportunities that face scientists and engineers working toward a sustainable future. The seminar series will be archived online for the benefit of students and faculty across the U.S. and around the world.
Cornell's award also contains an international component that allows students to foster or continue collaborations with scientists from around the globe, including the Max Planck Institute in Germany and Samsung in South Korea.