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PIRE: U.S.-Japan Cooperative Research and Education on Terahertz Dynamics in Nanostructures

Headquartered at Rice University, this NSF-PIRE renewal award (OISE-0968405) is a continuation of our successful PIRE I award that has supported our research and education programs since 2006. Our renewal grant supports the expansion of a unique interdisciplinary U.S.-Japan research and education partnership focused on terahertz (THz) dynamics in nanostructures. The 0.1 to 10 THz frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum is where electrical transport and optical transitions merge, thus offering exciting opportunities to study a variety of novel physical phenomena. By combining THz technology and nanotechnology, we can advance our understanding of THz physics while improving and developing THz devices. Nanotechnology is the study of nanostructures (between 1 to 100 nanometers long) and how they can be controlled, fabricated, or manipulated. New discoveries provide insight into the possibilities for novel electronic, photonic, mechanical, and magnetic devices that have huge potential for future technological applications including medicine, computation, and communications.

This PIRE project will (a) advance our quantitative understanding of THz dynamics in nanostructures, (b) fabricate novel nanostructures for THz study and applications, (c) advance cutting-edge experimental techniques in THz spectroscopy and imaging, and (d) provide new knowledge useful for developing novel THz devices. The projects explore THz dynamics in carbon nanomaterials, namely, nanotubes and graphene.

The U.S. and Japan are global leaders in both THz research and nanotechnology, and stimulating cooperation is critical to further advance THz science and develop commercial products from new ideas in the lab. However, obstacles exist for international collaboration - primarily linguistic and cultural barriers - and this PIRE project aims to continue breaking down these barriers. The project will also leverage large investments by both countries to achieve long-term scientific and societal impact by providing future generations of researchers with a better understanding of both the culture and the state-of-the-art technology in each country.

The strong educational portfolio of this project focuses on cultivating interest in nanotechnology among young U.S. undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented groups, and encouraging such students to pursue graduate study and academic research in the physical sciences. This renewed funding will expand and strengthen the award-winning international research experience program for undergraduates called the NanoJapan Program. Recognized as a model for international education programs for science and engineering students, this program will provide U.S. undergraduates with structured research opportunities in Japanese university laboratories with Japanese mentors. This program includes a three-week orientation program with language and culture training as well as extensive use of information technologies as learning and community-building tools. U.S. graduate students, early career scientists, researchers and alumni will benefit from direct involvement in the PIRE research as well as from related follow-on educational projects at home institutions and in local communities. Other programs such as undergraduate and graduate research assistantships and the NanoAsia Graduate International Research Experience (IRE) are additional venues for international collaboration for U.S. students. The original PIRE had particular success with recruitment of females and African-American students; these recruitment efforts will continue and will be expanded to include first-generation college-attending students. This broad portfolio of PIRE educational activities should produce a diverse cadre of students with rich skill sets that span nanoscience specialties, international cultural awareness, and the intersection of culture, language, science, and technology.

Institutional impacts of this award include strengthening Rice University's leadership position in international research and education in THz science, materials science, and nanoscience. It places Rice at the hub of an exciting domestic and international collaborative network of researchers and educators, while leveraging the University of Tulsa's exceptional strength in international education, especially its expertise in developing international education programs for science and engineering students. An Introduction to Nanotechnology & Nanoscience Online Seminar will be developed within this PIRE and will be webcast live and archived online, enabling live or asynchronous participation of all U.S. and Japanese participants, thus enhancing the international curriculum at all institutions. In addition, the project will further strengthen and internationalize connections within and among campuses established through the original PIRE award, including those with international offices, IT units, and curriculum and assessment specialists. The project is also an innovative model that enables the participating universities to foster multi-disciplinary international collaboration among scholars in engineering, the sciences, and the humanities. Furthermore, by bringing undergraduates into international research, the project builds on the success of the original PIRE in strengthening the pool of potential globally-engaged graduate students for the PIRE institutions and the nation.

U.S. project partners include Rice University (TX), University of Florida, University of Tulsa (OK), State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and Texas A&M University. Japanese partners include Osaka University, Chiba University, Shinshu University, Tohoku University, University of Tokyo, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS), Hokkaido University, RIKEN, and University of Aizu.

This award is co-funded by the Office of International Science and Engineering, the Division of Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems, and the Division of Materials Research.
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