Tuesday, March 27, 2012

After almost a year of waiting, finally some good news!

These are tough times for any programs that are funded by the U.S. government. Last summer I was contacted by NSF for some clarifications on my proposal, which I provided and resulted in the program manager's approval. In my experience, official notification to our university about an award comes no more than a few weeks after this first contact. In this case, we heard nothing for months.

While on an NSF panel in the fall semester, I visited with the program manager to inquire about the disposition of my proposal. He told me that the paperwork had been signed and that the documents "were on the Directors desk" awaiting final signatures. However, congressional battles on funding to NSF put proposals on hold until a resolution was in sight.

I was getting concerned that this proposal would never be funded. However, a couple weeks ago I was contacted by an accountant with questions about a budget issue. It took only a few emails to resolve the issue, so again, I waited. While I have not received official word in the form of a binding award letter, the NSF website now shows my proposal as "awarded." The reviews are also posted.

Excerpts from the panel summary follow.

Objective: The objective of this program is to invent new approaches for manipulating quantum systems in a way that enhances their nonlinear-optical response.

Intellectual Merit:
The intellectual merit of this proposal is very high and may lead to discovery of universal properties that will enable optimization of materials for a given task, such as nonlinear optical response. The PI's approach is to use sum rules in conjunction with numerical optimization and Monte Carlo studies to broadly understand those issues that are most important in making an optimized material. This will include development of fundamental quantum mechanical concepts that build an understanding of the performance limit of optical materials and practical methods for attaining the limit. The knowledge will guide chemists and nanotechnologists in designing new materials and nanostrucutures. The PI is very well qualified to carry out the proposed research. If successful, the proposed effort will lead to transformative paradigms enabling physicists and materials scientists to synthesize novel functional materials and to generate novel photonic devices.

Broader Impacts:
This proposal has the potential to make transformative advancements in the development of novel materials for photonic applications. The fundamental knowledge will serve as a guide in optimizing a material for a given task, such as nonlinear optical response. The work applies to any system based on the interaction between light and matter including molecules, inorganic materials, nanoparticles, smart materials, nanowires, etc. Education and outreach efforts are very strong and will broaden participation of Native American and under-represented groups and undergraduate students in the research program. The PI also plans to promote undergraduate participation and interaction with high school students through online interactive resources. Numerical codes that will be developed as part of the program work will be distributed over the web so that students can participate in research.

The panel considers this is an excellent proposal with strong technical and education components. If successful the research will have a transformative impact on development of fundamental quantum mechanical concepts to synthesize novel functional materials.
Reviewer Ratings: E, E, V,

Panel Recommendation:
The proposal was placed in the Highly Recommended [HR]] category by the panel. The Program Directors concur with the panel opinion as expressed in the panel summary with respect to both the Intellectual Merit and the Broader Impacts criteria.