Overview of US Academic Research

Julie Chen

A large portion of current research in nanotechnology is done by academic researchers, and understanding nanoscale behavior falls naturally within their sphere. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has the largest role in funding such research within the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), with additional academic research being supported by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Agriculture, and Environmental Protection Agency.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that provides research funding for colleges and universities in many fields, such as mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences. By definition, nanotechnology represents a significant shift in the behavior of materials, devices, structures, and systems because of the nanoscale dimension. This fundamental research also extends to research in manufacturing science, because the assembly of nanoelements is a critical scientific barrier to moving nanotechnology toward application in commercial products.

Every university with a research program in science and engineering has some activity in nanotechnology, and a basic search of these programs is likely to provide a limited view. Recognizing that the majority of academic researchers rely on federal funding to pay for graduate students, equipment, and supplies, we can gain a better understanding of the multitude of research activities by understanding what types of research and education outcomes are most likely for the various federal funding mechanisms. As an example, this chapter provides basic information on some of the NSF funding structure, research focus areas, and resources for more information.

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