Coe receives $636,000 NSF grant to fund student research in physics

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Secretary of the College
(319) 399-8605 or

2017-12-21 11:10:29 - General

Coe College has received a $636,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be used for student-faculty research on the science of glass over the next four years. With one of the leading undergraduate science programs in the country, the Coe Physics Department has now received NSF research grants continuously for more than 30 years. Since 2000, Coe has garnered nearly $10 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: Structure and Properties of New, Practical Glasses." Under the direction of physics professors Steve Feller, Mario Affatigato and Ugur Akgun, the grant will be used to fund continued glass research at Coe from May 2018 through April 2022. 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.

"Once again, we are extremely gratified by the ongoing NSF support for our glass research at Coe," said B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics Steve Feller. "This grant represents more than three decades of continued endorsement of our work by the NSF. Thanks to the grant, more than 40 Coe students and 10 high school students will be provided with extraordinary research opportunities over the next four years."

The funding is the latest in a series of external grants received by Coe's science programs since 1986, with more than $5.5 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 proposal, one of the anonymous NSF reviewers of the proposal offered the following comments in their summary statement:

"The PIs (Coe faculty members who are the principal investigators for the grant) have built one of the most successful undergraduate research and mentoring programs I have ever seen anywhere. In my own department the graduate students we have recruited from Coe College (specifically from the labs of the PIs) have gone on to be some of our most successful scientists and scholars—no doubt in part from the excellent preparation they received in the undergraduate research program at Coe College. This is also evidenced by the number of Coe alumni I have met at academic and industrial settings around the country. The PI's efforts in mentoring minorities and other underrepresented groups, including first-generation college-bound students, and bringing them into the scientific community has had a high and lasting impact on the entire field of glass science. Going forward in this proposal I can clearly see that their efforts will continue at this excellent level."

For nearly 40 years, nearly 70 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.  Over the past few years, Coe physics graduates have succeeded at many of the country’s best graduate schools, including Harvard (applied physics), Stanford (geology and materials science), Cornell University (materials science), the University of Florida (materials science), Arizona State University (materials science), the University of Iowa (physics), Iowa State University (materials science), the University of Minnesota (materials science) and Northwestern University (physics and materials science).  Other recent examples include Missouri University of Science and Technology (ceramic engineering), the University of California – San Diego (physics), the University of California – Davis (materials science), Georgia Tech (materials science and engineering), Lehigh University (materials science), Yale (biomedical engineering), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (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. The $279,000 grant for the REU site was renewed earlier this year by Professor Affatigato.

Coe College offers superb academics and exciting co-curricular activities in a thriving urban setting that promotes student growth and success. Established in 1851, Coe has a national reputation for academic excellence enhanced by a student-centered, highly supportive campus environment. Coe's vibrant Cedar Rapids location provides an abundance of internships for students and career opportunities for graduates.