Three faculty members receive NSF Convergence grants

Convergence award winners (from left) Ming Xiao, associate professor of civil engineering, Jun Zhu, associate professor of physics and Heng Xu, associate professor of information science and technology in their labs Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three Penn State faculty receive National Science Foundation Convergence awards as part of the Growing Convergent Research at NSF portfolio. The program seeks to highlight the deep integration of multiple disciplines in order to advance scientific discovery and innovation.

The first set of 23 awards will support workshops, summer institutes and Research Coordination Networks that promote interdisciplinary collaboration.

Ming Xiao, associate professor of civil engineering, receives $500,000 to "Coordinate a Transdisciplinary Research Network to Identify Challenges of and Solutions to Permafrost Coastal Erosion and its Socioecological Impacts in the Arctic." This research will establish a transdisciplinary Permafrost Coastal Erosion Research Coordination Network (PCE-RUN) to bring together engineers and natural and social scientists to address the problems that coastal communities in the Arctic face because of rapid coastal erosion caused by permafrost thawing and changing sea ice conditions. The researchers will evaluate the challenges and identify potential solutions during a series of international workshops, publications and engagement with local communities and policy makers.

Heng Xu, associate professor of information science and technology, receives $49,124 for a "Workshop on Converging Human and Technological Perspectives in Crowdsourcing Research." The workshop will focus on crowdsourcing — networked knowledge from public participation — which is currently emerging as a factor in human-computer interactions, data management, machine learning, human behavior and business. Participants will aim to synthesize the diverse perspectives found in these different fields; integrate different knowledge, theories and data to create a transdisciplinary and convergent research roadmap; and catalyze new research directions and advance scientific discovery and innovation in crowdsourcing research.

Jun Zhu, associate professor of physics, will receive $157,564 for "NSF/DOE Quantum Science Summer School." This annual summer program will help educate future researchers for the second quantum revolution by combining select graduate students with researchers in fields varying from condensed matter physics to quantum chemistry and engineering. Potential areas of discovery will include quantum computing, quantum cryptography   and quantum sensing, which will require a deep understanding of quantum mechanics, but also practical understanding of microwave electronics; cryogenic and ultra-high vacuum technologies; quantum materials; advanced computer programming; algorithm optimization; and device and systems engineering.

"NSF has supported cross-disciplinary collaboration for decades," said France Córdoba, director, NSF. "Convergence is a deeper, more intentional approach to the integration of knowledge, techniques and expertise from multiple disciplines in order to address the most compelling scientific and societal challenges."

Last Updated August 24, 2017