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Coe receives $620,000 NSF grant to fund student research in physics

Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2014-04-29 14:12:35 - General

Competitive science grants awarded to Coe Physics Department exceed $1 million this year

Coe College has received a $620,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be used for student-faculty research on the science of glass over the next four years. This year alone, the Coe physics program has been awarded more than $1 million in competitive grant support - a remarkable achievement for a small college.

With one of the leading undergraduate science programs in the country, the college has now received NSF research grants continuously since 1986. Since 2000, Coe has garnered nearly $9 million in funding from the NSF to support scientific research and equipment, as well as the renovation of Peterson Hall of Science.

The proposal that received the award was entitled "RUI: Research on Glass at Coe College." The award is effective from June 2014 through May 2018. According to physics professors Steve Feller, Mario Affatigato and Ugur Akgun, the grant will be used to fund continued glass research at Coe. The Coe Physics Department is known worldwide for working with undergraduate students in glass research.

Specifically, the grant will support Coe student/faculty research in glass on campus and in leading laboratories around the world. Coe students will travel to England, Japan, Italy and Brazil, The European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, known as CERN, and Fermilab - the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory - in Batavia, Illinois, over the next few years to conduct research. The students will subsequently present their findings at national and international conferences as a result of the grant funding.

"We are extremely pleased by the continued NSF support for our glass research at Coe," said B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics Steve Feller. "The grant represents a continued endorsement of our work by the NSF, and it will provide extraordinary research opportunities for more than 40 Coe students over the course of the grant."

The funding is the latest in a series of external grants received by Coe's science programs over the last quarter century, with more than $4.6 million going to the Physics Department alone. Less than 20 percent of grant applications receive funding, demonstrating the highly competitive nature of the NSF grant process.

Concerning the Coe grant proposal, one of the anonymous NSF reviewers of the proposal offered the following comments in his/her summary statement:

"There is truth to the adage 'don't mess with success.' This proposal should be funded, so that this outstanding program at Coe College can continue. When it comes to inspiring undergraduates in STEM to persist and go further, hands-on research is among the strongest motivators, if not the strongest. The program at Coe College has a 35-year track record of training some of the best materials science and engineering graduate students in the U.S. The evidence for this track record is a long list of prizes from professional societies, a long list of publications with student authors, and a long list of highly competitive graduate schools that have accepted their students. This is not because the Coe College physicists keep doing the same thing over and over again. This is because they keep improving what they fundamentally do, which is train physics undergraduates."

During the past 35 years, nearly 75 percent of Coe physics research students have moved on to graduate and professional school in a wide variety of technical areas including physics, biophysics, materials science, glass science, engineering, mathematics, actuarial science, architecture, chemistry, computer science and more. Further, Coe physics graduates have succeeded at many of the country's best graduate schools. Recent examples include Harvard (applied physics), Stanford (geology and materials science), the University of Minnesota (materials science), Northwestern University (physics and materials science), Missouri University of Science Technology at Rolla (ceramic engineering), Georgia Tech (materials science and engineering), Lehigh University (materials science), Yale (biomedical engineering), RPI (materials science), Rutgers (materials science) and dozens more.

Coe is currently one of only a handful of small colleges in the U.S. to host a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site, also supported by the NSF, which provides opportunities for students from Coe and other colleges across the country to conduct research in chemistry and physics.