MRI Seed Grant

New Seed Grant Opportunity in Multiple Areas – Funding 2022-2023

The Materials Research Institute (MRI), in collaboration with its partners, has identified a set of research themes that meet our strategic goals and have the potential for impactful research and outreach.  We are asking faculty to develop high-risk, high-impact, transformative ideas that will enable Penn State faculty to obtain preliminary data that can be used to pursue larger grants and to encourage early-career faculty to establish new research relationships outside their own unit in the areas of:

  1. Quantum Device Chip Packaging and Quantum Systems
  2. Sustainable Materials
  3. Convergence at the Intersection of Materials – Life – Health Sciences
  4. Integrated Projects in Data Science, Advanced Characterization, and Materials Processing
  5. MRI-ARL Partnership

We are targeting these areas to enable our researchers to generate new ideas and new teams to have an impact in these areas. Ideal teaming will consider the diversity of expertise among the team members and a fruitful mixture of experienced and early-career investigators.

Quantum Device Chip Packaging and Quantum Systems

Developing quantum technologies for revolutionary communication and sensor platforms is a major challenge that requires innovative material and device design. In this call, we are focused on developing packaging concepts for Rydberg gases that can provide room temperature functions such as electrometry, vector magnetometry, and also enable highly accurate and high-frequency timing devices. Irrespective of the enabling quantum phenomenon that is being explored, from Qubits to vapor cavity cells, there is a need to consider the integration of quantum objects with electronics and photonics and scaling aspects of driving these concepts to a viable device technology. We are interested in novel packaging designs and prototyping of quantum devices, considering ways to both scale detector arrays, address limiting noise, temperature stability, and decoherence effects.  The demonstration of quantum packaging prototypes would leverage the standing of Penn State in future federal agency calls in the quantum domain.

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Sustainable Materials

This thrust is aimed at collaborations that broadly address the processing, characterization, and circular techno-economic analyses of sustainable materials.  Broad topics of interest include CO2 material footprint, bioprocesses for sustainable materials, circular economy, disruptive concepts in materials recycling, and detailed analyses and case studies.  Ideally, collaborations will include processing and characterization tasks with well-justified technical and sustainability goals and analyses that direct the path towards new materials research.  Special consideration will be given to projects that engage the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (https://pennrmc.org/) and their partners in industrially relevant problems to propose new projects that can have short and long-term impact in Pennsylvania. Areas of interest include: (1) improvement of the processing, sorting, or purification of recycled consumer materials or packaging; (2) manufacturing or use of recycled materials as feedstock in new recycled-content products; and (3) manufacturing processes research that could solve an existing manufacturing inefficiency or problem which leads to increased use of an externally sourced recycled feedstock.

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Convergence at the Intersection of Materials – Life – Health Sciences

This topic area is focused on the discovery of new materials, concepts, and technologies that provide a platform for breakthrough research at the convergence of materials science and engineering, life sciences, and health science.  The aim is to seed collaborations between researchers affiliated with the Materials Research Institute, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and the College of Medicine.  Priority areas for this topic include regenerative medicine, materials characterization applied to biological samples of interest, and artificial organs and limbs including advanced prosthetics. For example, and in preparation for a university expanded effort in regenerative medicine, we are interested in teams to drive scientific insights with novel characterization methods to better understand biomaterial interfaces and histological developments with various tissue functions that will lead to organ growth.  We seek bold and intellectually brave research that could make a significant difference for society at large within this call.

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Integrated Projects in Data Science, Advanced Characterization, and Materials Processing

We seek collaborative teams that are pushing the boundaries in the use of data science tools to advance materials characterization and processing.  Due to the emphasis on in-situ characterization and high-rate data acquisition of rich datasets, modern data science tools will be needed to extract maximum value from experimental efforts.  MRI seeks to seed teams in this space to contribute to efforts in developing approaches to develop new experimental and data science methods to complement Materials Genome and large-scale computational projects.  Also under consideration in this topic are advanced diagnostic tools to aid in the data collection surrounding rare earth and other critical elements and their respective concentration in various feedstocks.  We also welcome non-traditional processing ideas that will support the energy-efficient extraction efforts of critical metals from coal sources using cutting-edge research methodologies and characterization tools.

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MRI-ARL Partnership

We are interested in seeding new collaborations between Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) and Penn State’s Materials Research Institute faculty linking manufacturing processes (such as additive manufacturing in CIMP-3D) and materials characterization (including work in MCL) to simulation (either through the MCC or individual efforts).  Central facilities usage combined with big data and modeling directed towards developing new collaborative teams between faculty and staff researchers is a key goal of this seed grant.  Each joint project between ARL and investigators with other Penn State faculty/research staff affiliations will require co-PIs from each organization with clear descriptions of publication and joint proposal goals that will be seeded in this program.  Potential topics of interest include advanced ceramics processing, scalable high-temperature composite processing, coatings and their degradation, high-temperature materials for extreme environments in critical applications such as hypersonics and fusion applications, simulation of materials processing, and sensors.

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Seed Grant Eligibility

All Penn State faculty members (tenured/tenure track, and fixed-term research faculty) who hold an appointment of half-time or more at any Penn State location are eligible to submit a seed grant proposal as a Principal Investigator (PI). ARL researchers with a demonstrated track record of external funding and publishing are also encouraged to participate.  Researchers, students, and staff from Penn State may be included as collaborators in seed grant proposals. Please note that while most proposals are expected to include multiple investigators, there can only be one responsible PI for each application. In addition, investigators may only participate in a single proposal.

Funding Opportunity

Funding is available through this seed grant solicitation from Jan 25, 2022 to June 30, 2023. To encourage establishment of new collaborations and enhancement of networks, larger grants will require innovative partnerships of investigators from multiple colleges and/or campus locations. Funds up to $10,000 can be awarded for a single investigator project and up to $50,000 for interdisciplinary collaborations involving multi-colleges and multi-campuses.

Grant funds will be available by January 25, 2022 and maintained within MRI on individual IOs.  Funds must be expended by June 30, 2023. No tenure-track faculty summer or supplemental salaries are to be charged to the seed grant.  Staff, ARL personnel, and fixed-term research faculty salary budget lines are permitted.

Submission Instructions

All pre-proposals must be submitted electronically to InfoReady via: https://psu.infoready4.com no later than 5:00 p.m. EST, December 6, 2021. Each pre-proposal is limited to four pages (or less) with a project description and additional pages for an appendix.

The project description must include the following:

  • Title of project
  • List of PI and collaborators
  • Short description of the project/why this is a significant opportunity
  • Short description of how this project will leverage seed funding
  • Nature of collaboration (new/existing; mentorship opportunities)
  • How will you promote/leverage this work for significant external funding?
  • Total funding to be requested, including a short description of anticipated expenditure

The appendix will include a list of all collaborators, their campus, colleges and/or departments, and one-page resumes for the PI and all co-PIs.


InfoReady Quick Start Guide for Applying to Opportunities

  1. Go to https://psu.infoready4.com and log in to the site using the link in the upper right of the page then click the button for Penn State Login.
  2. Click on the title of the opportunity from the list on the home page
  3. On the details page, click the “My Application” button to the right to start or resume the application.
    NOTE: If someone will be submitting the proposal for you (i.e., your college research administrative staff) you must add them as a Proxy in your user profile prior to submission.  See the instructions below.
  4. Complete the application forms and upload the documents required by the Call for Proposals.  The application is saved as you go.  You will be prompted to resume the next time you log in.
  5. When completed click “Submit Application.”  You will receive a confirmation when the submitted application has been received.

Adding Penn State employees as a Proxy for InfoReady

In order for another Penn State employee to submit an application on your behalf, you need to set them as a Proxy.

  1. Click your name in the upper right of the infoReady window when you are logged in.
  2. Complete profile information (Optional)
  3. Go to the section of the profile titled Designate an Applicant Proxy to click the “Add Proxy” button.
  4. Enter your designated Penn State email address in the form [AccessID]@psu.edu (i.e. abc123@psu.edu).  You must use the Access ID form of the email for the permissions to be granted.  Do not use an email alias.
  5. Click Add, then click “Save Changes.” An email will be sent to the person designated as a proxy.

Your Proxy will log in to the system and follow the application steps listed above. They will list you as the Applicant.

For assistance and submission questions contact: mah49@psu.edu  Also, help and FAQs are available on the InfoReady main page.

Review Criteria

Proposal reviews are based upon the following criteria:

  1. Intellectual merit of the proposal, including relevance to the call; creativity and innovation; significance of goals and results; soundness of research plan; and likelihood of successful project completion.
  2. A credible and clearly articulated strategy for leveraging this seed grant investment into exceptional scholarship and/or significant external funding. Potential for additional/continued activity beyond the seed grant phase may include plans for continued activity such as applications for external support from federal, state or local government agencies, industry, private foundations, and other sources of external funding. Any included cost share from research partners can demonstrate that a path exists to larger funding opportunities because of the seed grant.
  3. Appropriateness of the budget request for supporting the proposed research. The intent is not to fund tenure-track faculty supplemental salaries, but staff salaries are allowable.
  4. Use of central facilities is especially encouraged and the budget should detail the facilities to be used and the approximate budget for facility spending (including facility staff time).

Please direct any questions regarding the proposal process to Mike Hickner mah49@psu.edu