Penn’s LRSM awarded $21.7 million NSF grant

Penn’s Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) has been awarded a six-year, $21.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the research center’s work in cutting-edge materials.

The LRSM has been a leader in interdisciplinary materials research since its founding in 1961, and has hosted an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) since 1996. The new MRSEC grant will continue to support educational and experimental facilities, as well as the lab’s cutting-edge research in four new areas.

The four new research groups supported by the MRSEC grant will study the fundamental physics that govern certain types of materials, which will help to better understand how they break or deform. The research groups also will develop synthetic materials with never-before-seen properties, which could be used in a variety of industrial applications.  

“All of our projects identify and attack big, new problems in materials science,” says Arjun Yodh, director of the LRSM. “These problems are generally multi-faceted and are too difficult for individuals or small teams to solve. They require collaborations between chemists, physicists, chemical, electrical and mechanical engineers, materials scientists, bioengineers, biologists and even medical researchers.”

The NSF award coincides with the 50th anniversary of the LRSM, which has long played a vital role at Penn and in the greater Philadelphia region. With state-of-the-art experimental facilities and faculty expertise, the LRSM has partnered with local scientists from industry, government, academia and technical institutes around the world.

Yodh says a crucial feature of the LRSM is its innovative and successful educational outreach program. The center interacts with graduate students and post-docs, but also has been able to connect with K-12 students in the area, their teachers, undergraduates, local colleges, the general public and universities worldwide.

“MRSEC support is vital for generating student interest, for taking them to the next level and for promoting diversity in science and technology at all levels,” Yodh says.