New grant promotes science outreach and research at Yale

A $7.5 million grant Yale received last week will allow the University to forge ties with two other institutions and extend its science-education programs to secondary school students.

Yale received the National Science Foundation grant in conjunction with Southern Connecticut State University and Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. Researchers at the three institutions will use the funding to create the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena, which will focus on atomic research.

The center will hire and train researchers at all levels, from undergraduates to postdoctoral fellows, Yale physics professor Charles Ahn, a research group co-leader at CRISP, wrote in an e-mail.

“The MRSEC grant is outstanding news for Yale science and engineering,” Yale Provost Andrew Hamilton said. “It really puts us at the forefront of an important and hot new area of research.”

Approximately $1.5 million of the $7.5 million grant will go exclusively to SCSU. Ahn said other funds will go toward the purchase of new equipment for the center such as a molecular beam epitaxy system, which is used to produce advanced microelectronic devices such as the tiny transistors in cell phones.

In addition to providing funding for advanced research, the NSF grant requires recipients to contribute toward an increase in science literacy among the general public. Henrich said part of the funding will be used for outreach and educational work at Yale. CRISP scientists plan to collaborate with the Peabody Museum of Natural History to create new courses for undergraduates who are both science and non-science majors, Henrich said.

“NSF wants us to fund research at all levels,” Henrich said. “They care about science literacy for history majors too.”

SCSU physics professor Christine Broadbridge, an education director at CRISP, said she is developing high-school science lessons based on the CRISP’s materials research and plans to hold workshops to train secondary school teachers in science to teaching for young students. Broadbridge said a similar program she helped run at Trinity College in Hartford drew many high-school students into engineering.

“We’ll do some work with students themselves and we’ll do some with teachers and have them get the research experience,” Broadbridge said. “The idea is to get out into the community to convince people who wouldn’t normally consider engineering and science as a career choice.”