MRI grants to seed exploration of transformative materials research

The Penn State Materials Research Institute (MRI) is offering a variety of seed grants to University faculty. Image: Penn State MRI Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

The Penn State Materials Research Institute (MRI) is offering a variety of seed grants to enable University faculty to establish new collaborations with partners outside their own units for exploration of transformative ideas for high-impact research.

The MRI seeds grants were announced by Clive Randall, MRI director, during the 2020 Penn State Materials Day, held virtually Nov. 10-11.

“The ability to inspire our faculty around new partnerships and interdisciplinary research is critical to enabling and accelerating new science for the MRI community,” Randall said.

Seed grant eligibility includes tenured/tenure track and fixed-term research faculty who hold an appointment of half-time or more at any Penn State location. These individuals can submit a seed grant proposal as a principal investigator (PI), and they can include University researchers, students and staff as collaborators. PIs may only participate in a single proposal. Time frame for grants is 12 months from date of award, which will start in the first quarter of 2021.

There are five seed grant research themes:

Sustainability and manufacturing

Topics of interest for this research theme include additive manufacturing, materials characterization, architectural materials and sustainability. MRI is especially interested in collaborations between MRI and Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory that link manufacturing processes and materials characterization and/or modeling.

Disruptive concepts in materials recycling and circular economy

MRI recently partnered with the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center to initiate new projects with a goal of translating recycling-related technical solutions and expertise into the marketplace. The goal of these projects would be to reduce real and perceived barriers that would lead to increased end use of recycled materials, further lessening waste.

Convergent research at the intersection of materials – life – health – environment

MRI is looking to build on success supporting researchers at the intersection of materials science, life sciences, human health and environmental sciences. This research theme focuses on seeding teams with new ideas that include medical and clinical researchers to promote translational activities among Penn State campuses.

Humanitarian materials

In the past, MRI has funded multiple materials projects that benefit humanity, including projects aimed at improving physical and learning disabilities, health, food security, housing and clean water for under-resourced populations. Now, MRI is seeking new projects for both domestic and international populations to leverage materials innovation, characterization, outreach, and social good.

Living and multifunctional materials

Focused on the discovery of sustainable materials that are biological or inspired by biological principles, MRI designed this research theme to foster collaborations between researchers at Penn State University and University of Freiburg. Such projects would have an overall goal of making a significant difference for society at large. This includes topics such as engineered living materials related to self-assembly, biomimicry, adaptability, multifunctionality, multi-materials manufacturing, and active materials for adaptive architecture. These projects would be in partnership with the Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems.

“In all of these grants, collaboration is the key component that gives Penn State materials research a competitive advantage,” said Michael Hickner, professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering and associate director of MRI. “Our collaborative spirit and willingness to partner with groups inside and outside of the University helps to increase our impact and do research that improves technology, people’s lives and society as a whole. Through seed grants, we seek to find those important partnerships and help them flourish to attack new problems and find solutions in areas that we cannot address on our own.”

Pre-proposals are due by 5 p.m. EST on Dec. 18. Each pre-proposal is limited to a two-page project description and additional pages for an appendix. For more information and to apply for a grant, go to:

Last Updated November 17, 2020