This project invests in two independent research areas of local and national importance by capitalizing on Nebraska's core strengths in nanomaterials and algal biology. It proposes to establish two interdisciplinary research centers of excellence: the Center for Nanohybrid Functional Materials and the Nebraska Center for Algal Biology and Biotechnology. These centers are expected to assemble the expertise of 29 faculty members from seven disciplines to collaboratively address important fundamental science questions that also align with state and NSF priorities in nanoscience and energy. The project?s participating institutions are: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Creighton University, Doane College, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Little Priest Tribal College, and Nebraska Indian Community College.

Intellectual Merit The Nanohybrid Center proposes to pursue new sensing principles for nanohybrid materials that combine molecular scale recognition elements (such as DNA, dyes, or aptamers) with scaffolds composed of 3D ordered nanostructures. The new hybrid materials are anticipated to have unique chemical and physical properties. These novel features may offer yet unglimpsed potential for applications in health diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and domestic security. Algae have tremendous potential for providing large quantities of lipid-based biofuels on land unusable for production of food crops. The commercial use of algae for biofuels has yet to be realized because of the limited knowledge of the genetic and biochemical factors that regulate the growth of algae and their ability to accumulate lipids. The Algal Center would address this barrier by conducting basic research on the biology and metabolism of algae. Algae available today exhibit only a small portion of the genetic potential that lies within their genomes, and knowledge of fundamental algal biology is woefully limited.

Broader Impacts By providing collaborative opportunities for scientists, engineers, and private industry partners, this project proposes to dramatically advance the knowledge base in the areas of nanohybrid materials and algal biology and biotechnology. The proposed research in these fields holds great potential for the development of applications in health diagnostics, environmental monitoring, domestic security, and renewable and ecologically friendly energy production. The project would: 1) develop public-private collaborations through the University-Industry R&D Partnership Program, culminating in Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants; 2) promote technology transfer through the Nebraska Engineering, Science, and Technology Internship Program; and 3) form project-focused relationships with local and national technology companies. This project also would develop a pipeline of future scientists across Nebraska and enhance participation of individuals from under-represented groups in the bioscience, engineering, and other STEM fields through the Underrepresented Opportunity Portfolio. Research findings would be disseminated through conferences, presentations, interactive Web sites, and NE EPSCoR outreach programs.

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University of Nebraska
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