MU awarded $3 million grant for research and training in neutron scattering experiments

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | 12:33 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — MU announced a $3 million grant Tuesday for research and training in neutron scattering experiments.

Neutron scattering techniques are used to discover molecular properties of materials, according to an MU news release. It has been used to develop new drugs, high-strength metals and cement, electronic and magnetic devices and hydrogen storage materials.

The National Science Foundation awarded MU the grant to train current and future scientists in this field, according to the release.

Haskell Taub, the project director, hopes the new program will help attract outstanding graduate students throughout the country. 

Students working toward doctorates can apply for the training program, according to the release. Taub said MU is in the process of recruiting and plans to start the program in the fall of 2012.

Along with graduate students, faculty whose research could benefit from neutron scattering will have the chance to be trained, Taub said in the release. Faculty who mentor students in the program will have to chance to learn about the technique as well, Taub said.

The project will focus on three areas of research — the molecular structure and dynamics of biological materials, the characterization of materials used for electronic devices, such as lasers and computers, and the structure of nanoscale materials, such as gold nano particles that have many uses including cancer treatments, according to the release.

The MU's Research Reactor allows the trainees to do experiments that cannot be done at other universities, Taub said. MU is unique for having a rector for conducting neutron scattering experiments.

The program is part of a collaboration among four universities including MU, Indiana University, North Carolina State University and Fisk University in Nashville Tenn., according to the release. MU is the lead institution in the program.

During the five year program, Taub said he hopes to train as many as 20 students, according to the release. Taub said six of those students will be at MU. The program will provide $30,000 annual stipend plus tuition and fees to those students.

The grant is part of the National Science Foundation's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program. It is the first such award MU has received since the program began in 1998, according to the release. Out of 410 proposals submitted, 18 universities received the award this year. MU will match the grant with $1.3 million.

Five MU departments will participate in the program — physics, biochemistry, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering and biological sciences.

Taub said the hallmark of the program is that it is interdisciplinary.

"The benefit of this program is to attract high quality graduate students to MU," Taub said. 

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