This Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) award facilitates the unique interdisciplinary training of Ph.D. scientists and engineers in the field of sustainable and renewable energy solutions. The energy economy is an immediate and grand challenge that must be tackled by current and future generations of scientists and engineers.

Intellectual Merit: This program addresses this challenge by focusing on technology innovations in two subsystems of direct relevance: next-generation solar photovoltaics, and next-generation efficient optical data and communications networks. Both subsystems involve the manipulation of photons, through the realization of physical nanostructured devices and new spectroscopically-characterized functional materials, to deliver energy efficiencies dramatically better than current levels. The cross-training scientific research is synergistically integrated with innovative educational approaches and an emphasis on underrepresented groups.

Broader Impacts: This program addresses two main aspects of the energy challenge - efficient cost-competitive solar photovoltaics and energy-efficient optical networks - through cross-disciplinary advances in materials, devices and modular subsystems. This IGERT trains the next-generation of scientists and engineers to become leaders in shaping our country's renewable energy economy and policy. Effective implementation of solar photovoltaics requires appreciation of the societal context as well as a global awareness. Additionally, effective implementations of high-performance communication networks have security implications beyond traditional boundaries. The international partner sites are critical and integral to the training, providing materials growth through molecular-beam-epitaxy, real-world data network applications, and third-world photovoltaic deployment. Working with major industrial partners, the IGERT will conduct outreach to undergraduate and K-12 schools in Harlem and Nashville, encouraging underrepresented groups to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics areas of higher education.

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline, and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Graduate Education (DGE)
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Laura Regassa
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Columbia University
New York
United States
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