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Furman awarded $1.3 million NSF grant to expand student/faculty research

The NSF grant will allow Furman to expand summer research experiences for undergraduates.
In addition to providing more research opportunities for students, the $1.3 million grant will be used to purchase new equipment and research tools.

Furman University has been awarded a $1.3 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will help professors and students develop materials to improve medical care and conserve energy.

The funds are part of a larger $20 million NSF grant that harnesses the collective research and expertise of 10 state universities and launches Material Assembly Design Excellence in South Carolina (MADE in SC), an initiative that creates a statewide infrastructure to research and develop advanced materials.

Advanced materials can help improve the function of an existing product or produce groundbreaking discoveries. Furman Chemistry Professor Tim Hanks is developing an infection-detecting synthetic fiber that will change color if a wound is diseased. His colleague, Chemistry Professor Paul Wagenknecht, is working to improve solar energy conversion.

“At least five faculty members from our Chemistry Department—Tim Hanks, Marion Martin, Brian Goess, Jeffrey Petty and Paul Wagenknecht—will be directly engaged in this effort,” said Furman Associate Provost for Integrative Science John Wheeler, who serves as a co-Principal Investigator on the award to South Carolina. “We are thrilled with NSF’s recognition of the outstanding capacity for advanced materials design that exists both on our campus and statewide.”

In addition to Furman, other MADE in SC partners are The University of South Carolina, Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Winthrop University, South Carolina State University, Claflin University and Florence-Darlington Technical College.

The initiative will have a direct impact hiring 17 new faculty and supporting the research efforts of over 700 graduate students, undergraduates and high school teachers across the state.

Furman Chemistry Professor Marion Martin (left) is among the faculty who will collaborate with students on researching and developing advanced materials.

Each institution will play a unique role in the MADE in SC project, capitalizing on their existing strengths and areas of expertise. It will also position South Carolina to be a leader in advanced materials research and create a pipeline of highly trained workers to enter the fast-growing field.

While some universities will use the funds to hire new faculty and expand existing programs, Furman will use its portion to expand summer research experiences for undergraduates. The award will provide for faculty stipends and be used to purchase new equipment and research tools. Some of the funds will be used to engage K-12 teachers in materials science training through Furman’s Office of Integrative Research in the Sciences.

Undergraduate research and community engagement are key components of The Furman Advantage, an over-arching approach to education that promises all students the opportunity for an engaged learning experience that is tracked and integrated with their academic and professional goals.

“This NSF grant will foster faculty-student mentoring, providing our students with the real-world experiences they need to advance their professional careers,” said Furman Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost George Shields. “It will also create more opportunities for our faculty and staff to partner with teachers to improve science education in South Carolina. Furman will serve as an excellent host as we have one of the strongest programs in the physical sciences of any liberal arts and sciences university in the country.”

For more information, contact Furman’s University Communications office at 864-294-2185.

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