2018 iSuperSEED2 Competition

The National Science Foundation is running an "iSuperSEED2" competition, open to all current MRSECs, to support 4–6 supplements to existing MRSEC awards for efforts that could either nucleate a new Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) or substantially redirect an existing IRG. An iSuperSEED2 is a one-time $350,000–$500,000 supplement to an existing MRSEC award (e.g. the Center for Nanoscale Science). NSF will consider a maximum of two iSuperSEED2 proposals per MRSEC. Hence we will have an internal downselect open to teams across the university to choose which two white papers enter the NSF competition.

The maximum budget is $500,000. An itemized budget is not needed – just an approximate total line amount. Allowed costs are as for a regular award. The iSuperSEED2 team must include at least 3 faculty participants from the lead institution (PSU). Additional team members may be from the non-lead institution, but the majority of the team (2/3rds to 3/4ths) must be from the lead institution. Synergistic experiment/theory efforts are preferred. The iSuperSEED2 topics of interest must be part of the current DMR research portfolio, and for this specific call they must be aligned with DMR’s participation in the NSF Big Ideas. We should anticipate that no more than one iSuperSEED2 will be awarded by NSF nationally on any one of the Big idea topics, with varying degrees of competition nationally across the different Big Ideas listed below.

  1. The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution: Exploiting quantum mechanics to observe, manipulate, and control the behavior of particles and energy at atomic and subatomic scales, resulting in next-generation technologies for sensing, computing, modeling, and communicating. https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/quantum.jsp
  2. Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype: Elucidating the sets of rules that predict an organism's observable characteristics, its phenotype. Life on our planet is arranged in levels of organization ranging from the molecular scale through to the biosphere. There exists a remarkable amount of complexity in the interactions within and between these levels of organization and across scales of time and space. https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/life.jsp
  3. Harnessing the Data Revolution:Engaging NSF's research community in the pursuit of fundamental research in data science and engineering, the development of a cohesive, federated, national-scale approach to research data infrastructure, and the development of a 21st-century data-capable workforce. https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/harnessing.jsp
  4. The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier:Understanding how constantly evolving technologies are actively shaping the lives of workers and how people in turn can shape those technologies, especially in the world of work. The future of work at the human-technology frontier will bring together NSF research communities to conduct basic scientific research on the interaction of humans, society, and technology that will help shape the future of work to increase opportunities for workers and productivity for the American economy. https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/human_tech.jsp
  5. Growing Convergence Research at NSF:Framing challenging research questions at inception, and fostering the collaborations needed for successful inquiry. The grand challenges of today -- protecting human health; understanding the food, energy, water nexus; exploring the universe at all scales -- will not be solved by one discipline alone. They require convergence: the merging of ideas, approaches and technologies from widely diverse fields of knowledge to stimulate innovation and discovery. https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/convergent.jsp
  6. NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science):Enhancing STEM through Diversity and Inclusion: Transforming education and career pathways to help broaden participation in science and engineering. NSF has funded 67 launch pilots to date. The focus of these NSF INCLUDES launch pilots spans a number of broadening participation activities – from STEM engagement and preparatory experiences for students and other community members to educator training to new academic programs that expand access to STEM education. https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/includes.jsp

To compete for the two slots that the Center for Nanoscale Science will be submitting to the national NSF competition, submit a white paper, not to exceed 3 pages to the MRSEC Director (vhc2@psu.edu) no later than midnight on July 5 (this is a hard deadline, as we must meet the NSF deadline – the selected white papers will be forwarded to NSF with minimal further revision). Describe the proposed work, the expertise and role of the participants; note the number of graduate stduents or post-docs that will be involved in the project. Describe your vision regarding the iSuperSEED2's ultimate scientific goals and note if it (a) is complementary to an existing IRG and has potential to redirect that IRG; or (b) is a new effort that may lead to a compelling future IRG. Emphasize the alignment of the iSuperSEED2 with the DMR role in the NSF Big Ideas. Reference pages are not counted as part of the 3-page limit.

If you have any questions in how to prepare the most compelling possible white paper, please contact the MRSEC Director Vin Crespi (vhc2@psu.edu, 814 571-2711) and I will be happy to assist. This  competition is open to teams from across the University, but topics must align to DMR goals. The ultimate selection criterion will be likelihood of success in the NSF competition, plus prospects for the iSuperSEED in question to successfully compete in the renewal competition as part of an existing or new IRG.