The Department of Defense (DoD), through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)), is pleased to announce awards totaling $15 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to establish Centers of Excellence (COEs) in Biotechnology and Materials Science. 

A merit competition conducted by the OUSD(R&E)’s HBCU and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI) Research and Education Program, with awards issued by the Army Research Laboratory, selected two HBCUs to conduct cutting-edge research in the two defense priority areas over a five-year period.  After successful completion of negotiations between DoD and the academic institutions, both awards have been made by the Army Contracting Command.

The two awardees are:

  • North Carolina A&T State University, Center for Biotechnology: North Carolina A&T State University and collaborative partner, Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, will lead research to develop technology for detection and monitoring of chemical and biological threat agents using an integrated micro-engineered organ equivalent system. The proposed system will be used to characterize the effect of various pharmacological and toxicological agents—including threat agents relevant to national defense.
  • Morgan State University, Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials: Morgan State University will partner with Johns Hopkins University to explore the technological potential of an emergent class of two-dimensional (2D) materials for use by the Defense Department. The projects will target properties of 2D materials for specific areas of technology including wearable photovoltaics (PV) and thermally-managed photo-sensors as well as hybrid PV thermoelectric technologies for use by individual warfighters.

“The Department continues to forge partnerships with academia to stimulate research and innovation leading to the development of critical technologies required to meet our warfighter needs” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, acting Deputy Director for Research, Technology, and Laboratories in OUSD(R&E). “Biotechnology and materials science remains a priority across the Department to achieve new operational capabilities ranging from strengthening chemical biological defense systems to impacting warfighter performance.  We are excited for the range of activities the Centers will conduct in their technical areas and look forward to the foremost research contributions to the defense research enterprise.”

Together with the Centers’ research components, the COEs will provide training to underrepresented students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, particularly those of critical importance to the Department to further enable a diverse and capable STEM workforce. Collectively, the COEs will prioritize STEM education to promote the scientific advancement of undergraduate and graduate scholars in addition to provide internships at defense laboratories with collaborations from DoD researchers to address science and technology challenges. To foster early awareness of DoD research priorities, the Centers will also offer training to K-12 students to strengthen the talent pool entering the STEM pipeline.

Made under policy and guidance from OUSD(R&E), with participation from the Navy and Air Force research laboratories, the COE selections were based on a merit review by a panel of experts. The FY 2021 funding opportunity announcement received 27 eligible proposals with combined requested funding totaling $150 million.

For more information on the DoD HBCU/MSI Program, see [https://basicresearch.defense.gov/Programs/HBCU-MI-Program/]

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