News Release 21-010

2021 NSF PREM grants to broaden participation in cutting-edge materials research

NSF investment of $30 million will strengthen partnerships and collaboration between minority-serving educational institutions and leading research facilities

Professor Nicholas Pinto at UPR-Humacao teaching high school students how to use a scanning electron microscope.

High school students learn to use an SEM.

July 12, 2021

Today, the U.S. National Science Foundation awarded its latest grants through PREM, Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials, to support eight collaborative research teams across the United States that will increase diversity in cutting-edge materials research, education and professions.

Each six-year award provides nearly $4,000,000—for a total NSF investment of more than $30,000,000—and will support materials research partnerships between minority-serving institutions and large-scale, NSF-supported research facilities.  

In addition to supporting new discoveries, the PREM pathway provides institutional support to increase recruitment, retention and degree-attainment by underrepresented groups, and provides underserved communities with access to materials research and education. The awards are intended to support and motivate a diverse cohort of students through graduation, the pursuit of higher education, and rewarding careers.

“A focus on diversity of students, faculty, and partners—paired with the revitalization of under-resourced research—is the foundation of PREM and has been the source of many successful outcomes,” said Debasis Majumdar, director of the NSF PREM program. “It expands national innovation capacity and a much needed, highly trained and diverse workforce, propelling U.S. leadership in STEM fields.”

Since its start in 2004, PREM has successfully diversified research faculty and improved the likelihood that underrepresented students and students from underserved communities pursued and completed a doctorate in materials research. The initiative, anchored in research, has produced a wide range of results, from new materials for quantum devices and electronics, to live-cell imaging. PREM has trained more than 125 postdocs, and has helped more than 1,500 students graduate with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree – most from underrepresented minority groups.

Below are descriptions of the 2021 PREM awards.

  • NSF PREM for Vision of Excellence applying Navajo Traditions and Understanding with Research and Education in STEM (NSF PREM VENTURES)
    Navajo Technical University (Crownpoint, New Mexico)NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)NSF PREM VENTURES will build pathways for Native American students in STEM, from K-12 to graduate school, and address research areas that are important to the Navajo Nation, such as monitoring of abandoned mines, agriculture, elder care, manufacturing and veterinary care. The partnership will be co-funded by the NSF Division of Materials Research and the NSF Tribal Colleges and Universities Program.


  • NSF PREM for Fostering the Next Generation of Nanofiber Systems and Student Success 
    University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (Edinburg, Texas)  NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota) With the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley serving more than 31,000 students, 89% of whom are Hispanic, the NSF PREM for Fostering the Next Generation of Nanofiber Systems and Student Success will focus on aiding retention and graduation of underrepresented minority undergraduates and increasing the enrollment of Hispanic students in graduate school. The research will focus on developing the next generation of nanofiber systems with greatly enhanced functionalities and exploring novel applications, particularly in energy-related fields.


  • NSF PREM for Advanced Interface Materials
    Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, Georgia)Spelman College (Atlanta, Georgia)NSF Materials Innovation Platform for the Accelerated Realization, Analysis, and Discovery of Interface Materials at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)The NSF PREM for Advanced Interface Materials will focus on the design, synthesis and characterization of new oxide-based interface materials for the next generation of electronic, magnetoelectronic and optoelectronic devices. With Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College categorized as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, this NSF PREM will increase the number of undergraduate, and postgraduate (masters and doctoral) STEM degrees attained by African Americans. 


  • NSF PREM Southwest-Pacific Collaboration in Machine Learning Design, Synthesis and Applications of Metalorganic Hybrid Biomaterials
    New Mexico Highlands University (Las Vegas, New Mexico)The NSF BioPolymers, Automated Cellular Infrastructure, Flow, and Integrated Chemistry Materials Innovation Platform at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Los AngelesThe NSF PREM Southwest-Pacific Collaboration in Machine Learning Design, Synthesis and Applications of Metalorganic Hybrid Biomaterials will focus on machine learning, materials synthesis, high-throughput automated chemistry/biosynthesis, and organic-inorganic materials applications. The partnership will be co-funded by the NSF Division of Materials Research and the NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program.


  • NSF PREM for Hybrid Nanoscale Systems 
    North Carolina Central University (Durham, North Carolina)Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania)The NSF PREM for Hybrid Nanoscale Systems between Penn State and North Carolina Central University, a historically Black institution, will boost attainment of undergraduate and graduate degrees in materials-related disciplines by women and underrepresented minority students. The partnership’s research will focus on hybrid material systems integrating nanostructures of different dimensionalities or classes of materials to explore novel phenomena and engineer new functionalities. The partnership will be co-funded by the NSF Division of Materials Research and the NSF Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program.


  • NSF PREM Center for Intelligent Materials Assembly (NSF PREM CIMA)
    Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas) Center for Dynamics and Control of Materials, an NSF MRSEC at the University of Texas at AustinWith Texas State University serving nearly 38,000 students, including 39% Hispanic and 11% African American, the NSF PREM CIMA will provide pathway for underrepresented minority students into advanced degrees and careers in materials science. NSF PREM CIMA will conduct research in areas of reconfigurable soft materials and nanostructure control to develop advanced materials for biomedical, energy, electronics and environmental applications.


  •  NSF PREM for Device Innovation through Inclusive Research and Education
    University of Puerto Rico at HumacaoUniversity of Puerto Rico at CayeyNSF Materials Research and Science and Engineering Center at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)The NSF PREM for Device Innovation through Inclusive Research and Education will engage Hispanic, women, and Afro-Latin students from disadvantaged backgrounds—including low-income students, first-generation college students, and those living in rural areas—in materials science and engineering. The research focus will be charge dynamics in transition metal and carbon-based materials, and surface-functionalized nanomaterials for sensing applications.


  • NSF PREM for Innovations in Materials, Processes, and Applications for Quantum Technologies (NSF PREM IMPAQT)
    Florida International University (Miami, Florida)Penn State 2D Crystal Consortium (University Park, Pennsylvania)NSF PREM IMPAQT will focus on fundamental and practical aspects of new 2D materials and processes that can be transformative in the quantum science field. With almost 80% of its student body formed of minority students, FIU, a Hispanic Serving Institution, is uniquely positioned to recruit and train a diverse graduate student population in materials for the future quantum science workforce.


Media Contacts

Media Affairs, NSF, (703) 292-7090, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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