The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) recently awarded cooperative agreements to establish two new University Research Alliances (URAs); these alliances are part of the countering-weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) and improvised threat networks mission. With a combined value of $51.5 million, the alliances will advance CWMD basic research and workforce development and spur new scientific discoveries with the potential to improve current and future warfighter technology.
DTRA Research and Development’s (RD) Enabling Capabilities Department will coordinate agency collaboration.
“We are excited to begin these new university alliances,” said Dr. Rhys Williams, DTRA’s director for RD. “They mark the beginning of a new era of CWMD basic research for DTRA.”
The two alliances include research leaders in the field of CWMD at large and small universities, historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, and smaller institutions in the public and private sector.
“Through active collaboration with our new partners, we will have more flexibility to respond to changes in priorities and emerging technical areas,” Williams said.
The first award, the Materials Science in Extreme Environments University Research Alliance (MSEE-URA), will be led by Johns Hopkins University. This alliance is composed of 18 institutions that will collaborate with DTRA personnel to advance the fundamental understanding of material properties and mechanisms in non-equilibrium, high-pressure, high-temperature and high-photon-number regimes.
The MSEE collaboration will focus on a diverse collection of crosscutting research areas. These include material properties and failure, materials manufacturing process compatibility, chemistry in extreme environments, and interaction between photons and other matter.
“Building up the nation’s capabilities in the area of scientific research and education has never been more important,” stated U.S. Air Force Colonel Benjamin Ward, chief of DTRA’s Enabling Capabilities Research Division. “By having more scientific minds working on our projects, we can increase our ability to provide solutions to the warfighter.”
The second award, the Interaction of Ionizing Radiation with Matter University Research Alliance (IIRM-URA), will be led by Pennsylvania State University and includes 14 partner institutions. The IIRM-URA will focus on research concerning radiation interacting with materials for detection and electronics; devices and integration; and nuclear survival, response, modeling, and simulation.
The IIRM-URA consortium will complement its research activities with a robust outreach program that will connect local high school students with real-world scientists and engineers for mentoring opportunities. IIRM members will spark student interest through a hands-on approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and contribute to the growth of the next-generation STEM workforce.
“I, for one, believe that it is crucial to our national security that we reach out to students as early as possible during their scientific studies,” remarked Ward.
The alliances will provide support for up to 79 principal investigators, 22 post-doctoral scholars and 60 graduate students. The URAs are expected to produce major scientific breakthroughs that will ultimately contribute to national security, graduate 28 individuals in STEM majors relevant to CWMD and yield 220 peer-reviewed journal articles annually.
“The new alliances will address our most important mission challenges by applying cutting-edge science,” said Williams.
Adapted from original story by Darnell Gardner, Defense Threat Reduction Agency