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UCSB Materials Research Lab receives NSF funding

In the Industry | October 23, 2023 | By:

In a funding renewal, the University of Santa Barbara’s Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) has received its seventh consecutive major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to operate as an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). A top materials research facility, MRL was one of nine centers selected by the NSF this year to receive $18 million over six years.

“This renewal serves as validation that the choices we have made have been correct,” said Ram Seshadri, UCSB’s director of the MRL. “Our focus on collaborative research and shared facilities has contributed to the center’s collective success, in which we take tremendous pride.”

Materials science is an interdisciplinary field in which knowledge from several disciplines, including physics, chemistry, life science and engineering, is incorporated in pursuit of understanding how the properties and structure of materials influence their function and performance. 

“It’s not about what we’re doing individually as researchers,” said Chris Bates, an associate professor of materials and associate director of the MRL. “It’s about what we can do as a community of researchers who tackle problems together in ways that we wouldn’t normally think about individually.”

This cycle includes nine faculty who are new to the MRSEC, including two data scientists whose expertise in advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning methods will facilitate data-driven discovery across both interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs).

A key component of the grant is to support and sustain the MRL’s world-class characterization facilities — where materials are synthesized and analyzed — which are accessible not only to everyone at UCSB, but to the local community as well. Seshadri said that more than 100 faculty groups from UCSB and other universities, as well as nearly 60 companies, have used the facilities supported by the MRSEC. Numerous startup companies that have sprung from research carried out at UCSB also rely on these facilities to refine their products and prepare them for market.

The latest renewal establishes two new interdisciplinary research groups to conduct research into electrostatically mediated polymer processing and bioinspired plasticity.

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