NSF Funds Ten New PREM Seed Grants

Frances Williams and April Falconer collaborate in the lab.

Frances Williams and April Falconer collaborate in the lab.

August 18, 2021

The U.S. National Science Foundation awarded new seed grants through PREM, Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials, to support ten collaborative research teams across the United States that will lay the groundwork for full-fledged PREM awards at these institutions in the future.

Each seed award provides $800,000—for a total NSF investment of $8,000,000—and will support materials research partnerships between minority-serving institutions and large-scale, NSF-supported research centers and facilities.  These seed grants are intended to support these minority-serving institutions over the next three years to begin building partnerships, with the hope that they will be better prepared and ready for a full PREM award in the future. These ten seed awards are in addition to eight PREM awards that were recently announced.

PREM is intended to enhance and solidify a pathway for young researchers from underrepresented groups to enter the vibrant field of materials science and engineering by providing them access to cutting-edge research and education. The PREM program has, since 2004, supported many cohorts of students through their graduation and beyond, to have successful and rewarding careers in materials research.

"Our PREM program is helping to build the future of materials research and the students, faculty, and partners who are engaged in it,” said Sean L. Jones, Assistant Director of MPS. “This program allows us to harness more talent by expanding and developing a diverse workforce that will lead to exciting innovations and continue to push U.S. leadership in STEM fields.”

Below are descriptions of the 2021 PREM seed grants

  • Tennessee State University-Fisk University-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (TSUFI) PREM collaboration

Tennessee State University (TSU) and Fisk University

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center –University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

TSUFI is creating strategic research opportunities and exchanges, structured within a supportive framework of education, career preparation, and cross-institutional mentoring, that will increase access to advanced materials facilities and training of underrepresented minority (URM) undergraduates. It will build recruitment pathways to increase the enrollment of URMs in materials-related graduate programs at TSU, Fisk, and UIUC, ultimately increasing the number of minority STEM graduates prepared for materials science careers in industry, government, and academia.

  • SEED Partnership for Research and Education in Superatomic and 2D Materials (PRES2M) 

 Howard University

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – Columbia University

This research will focus on how light interacts with matter for developing new optical and electrical devices for the quantum information age. This is a research and education program that increases participation of undergraduate students in materials science and engineering (MSE), mentored by graduate student trainees and teacher-scholar postdoctoral associates in MSE, to strengthen existing diversity efforts at Columbia and provide a foundation for the MSE degree-granting program at Howard.

  • PREM to Fueling Opportunities for Successful and TransformativE Retention of Chemistry Majors (PREM to FOSTER-Chem)

Florida A & M University (FAMU)

NSF’s Materials Innovation Platform –GlycoMIP at Virginia Tech (VT)

Students and researchers will synthesize and characterize hybrid poly(arylene ether sulfone) (PAES) semi-synthetic materials using different glycan chemistries. The partnership with GlycoMIP will use research in polymer/glycan materials to enhance student success and attainment of graduate degrees, increase faculty productivity in obtaining external grants and publications, and develop collaborative relationships to potentially establish a FAMU-VT Bridge track. 

  • California State University, Long Beach’s PREM

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)

 NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center - Center for Emergent Materials at the Ohio State University 

This program will focus on frontier research in magnetic, thin film and biomaterials. CSULB is a Hispanic-serving institution and hosts leading Masters-level programs in STEM fields such as Physics & Astronomy, Chemistry, and Mathematics. The PREM will leverage existing connections via respective Bridge programs to improve retention and PhD degree attainment of students from underrepresented groups through sustained research engagement, mentoring and professional development opportunities.  

  • Xavier University of Louisiana—University of Chicago’s PREM

 Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA)

 NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center - University of Chicago (UC)

This PREM will work on developing new materials for application in lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries. The XULA-UC partnership will provide undergraduate students with access to cutting-edge research and world-class research facilities and increase exposure to materials science education for students at the middle and high school levels.

  •  The University of Texas at Arlington’s PREM

The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA)

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center - Northwestern University (NU-MRSEC)

This PREM will address key fundamental aspects of functional materials such as electron transport and energy filtering across mixed-dimensional heterostructures, in addition to developing new heteroanionic materials with tunable properties that are otherwise inaccessible from simpler homoanionic structures and chemistries. The PREM framework elements of this project will include engagement of undergraduate students in challenging materials research, participation in NU-MRSEC REU summer programs, peer mentoring, and recruitment into the graduate materials science and engineering program.

  • Soft Matter Research & Technology and Quantum Confinement Materials Design (SMaRT QD)

 Delaware State University and Claflin University

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – University of Delaware

SMaRT QD will catalyze the rational design, synthesis, and characterization of soft matter and quantum confinement materials with tunable properties driven by the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) approach, linking computation, data science, and experimentation. The SMaRT QD PREM framework includes education and outreach activities that build upon innovative mentoring and multidisciplinary training pathways, advancing the recruitment, retention, and degree attainment of underrepresented students throughout the academic pipeline to support a world-class, next-generation, materials science workforce.

  • Ultrafast Dynamics and Catalysis in Emerging Materials

 University of Central Florida

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – University of Washington

This PREM program will focus on the discovery of new phenomena utilizing theory-guided design, synthesis, investigation, and manipulation of novel quantum materials and catalysts. The core education mission of the PREM is to promote materials education and nurture inclusive environment through co-mentoring and exchange visits of students, organization of conferences, workshops for undergraduate students, summer camps for high school students, and development of open-source online learning modules.

  • The Materials Research and Education Consortium (MRE-C)

 University of Hawaii at Manoa

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – University of Washington

Researchers will focus on developing advanced nano-to-macroscale defect-bearing and doped materials for application in emerging energy and space technologies. The Consortium’s PREM framework elements will include strong student dual-mentoring, including individualized professional development plans; annual in-person student/faculty summer research exchanges, complemented by regular virtual exchanges; and joint research seminars and annual student symposia. The PREM pathway will increase the participation of underrepresented groups in Materials Science, especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) and women.

  • NCAT-Cornell PREM: Collaborative Research and Education in Energy Materials (CREEM)

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NCAT) State University

NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center -- Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR)

This PREM will develop low-dimensional titanium oxynitride-based materials capable of supporting energy conversion reactions. The CREEM team will focus on broadening the participation of underrepresented African American students in graduate education leading to terminal degrees by engaging K-16 students in innovative materials research, education, and outreach programs.


The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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