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Fort Lewis College part of $94 million National Science Foundation initiative

Dr. Ryan Haaland
Dr. Ryan Haaland

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced $94 million in funding to support complex scientific research, and Fort Lewis College (FLC) will be among the institutions taking part. This partnership will open doors for FLC students, particularly minority students, to collaborate in cutting edge research while preparing them to make the move to graduate school or a career.

The funding will be split between four Science and Technology Centers (STC). Over the next five years, up to $24 million will go to the Science and Technology Center on Real-Time Functional Imaging. This is the STC in which Fort Lewis College will work in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder; Florida International University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Irvine and the University of California, Los Angeles. CU Boulder Distinguished Professor Margaret Murnane will serve as director and principal investigator for the center.

“As discoveries in science and technology proliferate at the nanometer and atomic scales, real-time functional imaging, which gives researchers the ability to detect what's happening at those tiny scales, becomes increasingly important,” the NSF press release on the new funding states.

“Ultimately, the center seeks to enhance the research community's understanding of the structure and functionality of various types of matter as they change over time.”

“The broad field of imaging science needs more scientists and engineers in it,” says Dr. Ryan Haaland, chair of the FLC Department of Physics & Engineering. “So this is one way to cultivate that, and our part of that is to cultivate the underrepresented minorities in those fields.”

Students and scientists from the partnering institutions will collaborate on research projects, even traveling between schools. In addition to the potential for scientific advances, this collaboration offers FLC students the opportunity to increase their abilities and build a network they can utilize after they graduate, particularly if they wish to go on to graduate school.

“The idea is to make the transition from a small campus like Fort Lewis to Boulder or Berkeley or UCLA something that’s not so dramatic because they are confident they have the skill sets; they have a familiar face that they’ve been working with here.”

The NSF partnership comes at an exciting time for science at Fort Lewis College. In the next few months, the College’s new Geosciences, Physics & Engineering Hall will open and offer students new lab space with state-of-the-art equipment. In the area of imaging science, Dr. Haaland sees FLC’s optics lab and lasers being used a great deal, along with the scanning electron microscope and even the telescopes in the rooftop observatory.

Dr. Haaland also expects there to be “heavy-duty computational work” to be done, which will fit with FLC’s new Computer Engineering program set to begin in fall 2017.

Learn more about the Fort Lewis College Department of Physics & Engineering at www.fortlewis.edu/engineering

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