Rice receives $2.2M for international project

Rice receives $2.2M for international project

Rice News Staff

Rice University has been awarded $2.2 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a five-year project that will offer an integrated approach to international research and education in the area of nanotechnology.

The U.S.-Japan Cooperative Research and Education program, titled “Ultrafast and Nonlinear Optics in 6.1­-Angstrom Semiconductors,” will investigate the optical properties of several group III-V semiconductors, including indium arsenide, gallium antimonide and aluminum antimonide.

Junichiro Kono, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice, is the program’s principal investigator. His research group will use ultrashort laser pulses to create, manipulate and study a variety of electron quantum states in materials supplied by their Japanese collaborators. The investigations could lead to new, ultrafast information-processing technologies.

Rice’s grant is one of only 12 in the nation awarded in this year’s NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education program designed to help U.S. institutions “establish collaborative relationships with foreign groups or institutions in order to advance specific research and education objects and to make possible a research effort that neither side could accomplish on its own.”

The multidisciplinary program includes participation from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Career Services Center and the Office of International Programs. Co-principal investigators from Rice include Cheryl Matherly, assistant dean of student affairs and director of international opportunities, and Patrick Frantz, lecturer on electrical and computer engineering and special liaison for international engineering programs.

Also participating are the physics departments at Texas A&M University and the University of Florida.

“Science and engineering are becoming increasingly international, and there is a pressing need for U.S. universities to develop research and education programs to produce globally aware scientists and engineers,” Kono said. “We hope to attract young undergraduates to the emerging areas of electrical engineering and the physical sciences, especially nanotechnology. In the long term, we aim to increase the number of U.S. students who choose to go to graduate school to study science and engineering.”

In addition to the research itself, the program includes a nanotechnology summer program in Japan, designed to encourage young U.S. undergraduates to enter the field of nanotechnology and prepare them for work in the international arena. After a four-week orientation in the Tokyo area, including intensive language instruction and basic science taught by graduate students working on the research, 16 students will engage in six- to eight-week research internships in the laboratories of Rice’s Japanese partners. At the end of the summer, all of the students will meet in Houston to participate in a weeklong nanotechnology symposium held in conjunction with a Rice Quantum Institute event.

“The summer nanotechnology program tightens the link between student international internships and Rice’s research activities,” Matherly said. “All of the internships will be with Rice’s collaborators in Japan, and the students will learn about the field while contributing to nanotechnology research. It is a unique opportunity for a freshman or sophomore student to get such an intimate exposure to this field.”

Finally, this award will provide permanent funding for the annual INNOVATE conference in Asia, which provides students with an in-depth look at globalization, leadership and technology.

“For this project, the partnership between Japan and the U.S. is appropriate because it leverages the two countries’ strengths in nanotechnology research,” said Frantz, who assisted in writing the program proposal.

He noted that compared to other countries, Japan leads the world in nanotechnology research spending, with the U.S. close behind. “Both countries outspend the next largest — China — by over 300 percent,” Frantz said.

The program begins Dec. 15.

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