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Tonko Heralds $7.3 Million in Science Grants Awarded to Capital Region

NSF grants fund cutting-edge innovation at SUNY Polytechnic, Rensselaer Polytechnic (RPI)

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Albany, August 22, 2019 | comments

ALBANYCongressman Paul D. Tonko announced today that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and SUNY Polytechnic Institute a group of scientific research grants totaling $7,377,474.

“These competitive awards reaffirm that our Capital Region continues to be at the forefront of U.S. scientific advancement,” Congressman Tonko said. “America’s future depends on the work of these local visionary researchers and others like them, which continues to reveal valuable insights into our energy systems and environment and how they impact public health, our economy and the wellbeing of all. I applaud the National Science Foundation for supporting this innovative research. Congratulations to the researchers, our pioneering academic departments and institutions and all who have dedicated themselves to these projects and the betterment of humankind.”

  • SUNY Polytechnic has been awarded $6,000,000 to develop and implement a workforce certificate program for students, employers and academic institutions based on a competency model, in partnership with SEMI. Research on this program was led by Dr. Robert Geer, a professor at SUNY Polytechnic.
  • RPI has been awarded a combined $1,377,474 for three research projects tied to innovations in energy, environment and telecommunications:
    • $507,284 for research into international collaborations to study soil as a means of raising awareness on the public health risks of soil contamination. This program is spear-headed by Dr. Abby Kinchy, an associate professor at RPI.
    • $420,190 for research into improving wireless communication by developing a sustainable and comprehensive framework for analyzing radio spectrum. Dr. Ali Tajer, an associate professor at RPI, developed this project.
    • $450,000 for research into power grid modernization including secure monitoring and control systems using machine learning and artificial intelligence. Research for this project is led by Dr. Meng Wang , and associate professor at RPI.  

“We are very excited about this award from the National Science Foundation and the opportunity to work with SEMI on their first-of-its kind Certification for the 21st century high-tech workforce," Dr. Robert Geer, who leads the SUNY Polytechnic research project, said. "With this Certification program our region’s 2-year and 4-year college students will be perfectly positioned to pursue outstanding STEM careers in New York State and beyond. They will be uniquely qualified—and highly sought after—to enter STEM fields associated with cutting edge semiconductor and electronics systems technologies including AI, power electronics, integrated photonics and computer chip manufacturing at SEMI member companies and beyond. This program will substantially expand the types and number of STEM careers that our upstate NY students can enter. As the first region in the U.S. to develop this Certification with SEMI we believe this program will help maintain our region’s leadership in the high-tech workforce of the 21st century.”

“A key element of the signature research thrust on Energy, the Environment and Smart Systems at Rensselaer is the understanding of the impact of global environmental change upon bio-diversity in our planet” said Robert Hull, Senior Associate Vice President for Research at RPI. “The work of Dr. Kinchy’s interdisciplinary team in understanding contaminants in soils, and in engaging the broader community in that work through citizen science, exemplifies our commitment to applying our research to national and global challenges.”

“Heavy metal contamination of urban soil is a public health threat with no easy solution,” Dr. Abby Kinchy, who heads one of the RPI projects receiving funding, said. “This project will make it possible for communities to investigate soil contamination in their own neighborhoods, understand pathways for exposure, and discover the social and political dimensions of soil pollution and cleanup. As a social scientist, I am proud to lead this multidisciplinary collaboration that involves the natural sciences, engineering, and the arts—as well as community partners in Troy, NY and northern Chile. I believe that collaborating across disciplines, with the public, and across international boundaries is essential if we are to address the urgent environmental challenges that we face today and in the future.”

“Wireless communication technology is rapidly transcending its primary domains of application and is having a transformative role as the critical backbone in various emerging new technologies that affect different technological, social, and economic domains,” Dr. Ali Tajer, the lead investigator of one of RPI’s projects, said. “The efficiency of spectrum management critically depends on forming agile and accurate situational awareness about spectrum occupancy states across time and space.  This research will have multifaceted technological impacts in the wireless communication domain, especially those that critically rely on the highly efficient usage of the frequency spectrum.”

The NSF was created in 1950 by Congress as an independent federal agency and works to spark cutting edge technologies in physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education. They are currently responsible for funding 24% of all federally backed research at national colleges and universities. 

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