NSF’s PREM Program provides a rare and welcome opportunity for minority-serving institutions of higher learning to take a leadership role in the context of large Center-related research and education.  In this proposal, the New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) and Morehouse College (MC) seek to break new ground by combining forces to jointly lead a new Partnership for Research and Education in Materials.  We will partner with the DMR-funded Science and Technology Center on Materials and Devices for IT Research (CMDITR) and benefit from the experience of this accomplished NSF STC which is in the mature phase of its ten-year charter.

Increasingly, the tools and accessories of everyday life are driven not only by electrons, but by photons.  Sometimes, light is a simple signal carrier, prized mainly for its speed and efficiency.  In other instances, however, light plays a more active role by materially altering the properties of substances in its path – whether they be a dye in a writeable DVD, a sealant on a tooth, or a crystal in a telecommunications switch.  We will explore light-matter interactions in three types of materials poised to yield important societal applications and distill down the science so that students and teachers can grasp how these interactions occur and why they are useful.  The research plan will include three thrusts:

  • Research Thrust 1:  Two-Photon Absorbing Materials
  • Research Thrust 2:  Crystalline Nonlinear Optical and Electro-Optical Materials
  • Research Thrust 3:  Conductive Organic Polymers for Solar Cells

Progress in these research areas will lead to advances in light-sensitive materials for biological imaging and therapy, current-light conversion, devices cheap durable solar cells, and many other technologies. 

Team Partners:  NMHU and MC share century long histories as pioneers in the education of two important minority groups: Hispanics (59% at NMHU) and African-Americans (100% at MC).  NMHU has a 12-year heritage as host of the NASA-inspired Alliance for Nonlinear Optics (ANLO).  NMHU has been a part of the CMDITR since 2002, and MC is has recently forged a collaboration with this STC.  As a result, both institutions have considerable technical expertise in materials science.  CMDITR is a vibrant example of NSF’s STC Program, funding over 30 PIs (40% of whom are from underrepresented groups) from eight partner institutions.  In its seven year history, CMDITR has launched path-breaking programs in minority recruitment in association with the GEM Consortium, multi-million $ research sponsorship through Industry Affiliates, graduate and postdoctoral mentorship-internship-international exchanges, education through web modules, scientific ethics, and more.