The overarching goals of this Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) are to advance institutional research and educational capabilities in materials at NCCU and to strengthen the pipeline for the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) in materials science and related disciplines. This proposal builds upon a successful PREM partnership between NCCU and Pennsylvania State University (PSU) that has led to strong research and education outcomes.
The partnership is further intensified through the identification of new, highly synergistic, multidisciplinary research directions that will increase collaboration and enhance research productivity by enabling inter-institutional teams to investigate complex materials in areas of mutual interest. New initiatives leveraging Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) resources impacting each step of the PREM pathway will be adopted to enhance broad participation of underrepresented groups in materials research and education. This PREM is expected to expand the pool of students engaged in materials research at NCCU and provide the academic, research and professional skills to prime them for success in post-NCCU careers.
This PREM aims to increase understanding of the fundamental principles underlying the properties of heterogeneous nanoscale systems and to engineer new materials with novel functionalities based on these insights. The research effort of the partnership consists of two core research thrusts integrating capabilities at NCCU and PSU to extend the scope and depth of research beyond those accessible at either individual institution.
Thrust 1 is focused on the synthesis of mixed-dimensional (0D or 1D/2D) heterostructures for sensing, photovoltaic and photocatalytic applications, and characterization of charge transfer and enhanced chemical reactivity at the nanoscale interfaces. The key scientific challenges addressed by this thrust are the design of well-defined p-n heterojunction sensors with desirable sensitivity and selectivity and the control of optical properties of hybrid nanocomposites for energy harvesting and water disinfection.
Thrust 2 encompasses research into hybrid metal/semiconductor, organic-inorganic perovskite and polymer/ceramic nanocomposites for optoelectronic and sensor applications. This thrust focuses on engineering strong light-matter coupling in semiconductor–metal systems to control carrier dynamics and long-range transport, the effects of compositional heterogeneities across a wide range of length scales on optical properties, and controlling multiferroic properties through matrix-nanoparticle interactions.
This PREM supports measures designed to broaden participation in materials science by instituting recruiting and outreach measures to ensure a steady inflow of underrepresented minority students from local high schools; enhancing the curriculum and academic support services to provide students with solid academic foundations; engaging students in closely mentored research experiences to provide research skills and hands-on experience with advanced tools and techniques; offering professional development activities designed to improve communications and teamwork skills; matching NCCU students with MRSEC peer mentors; and guiding students towards informed career choice and steps needed to secure admissions to graduate programs or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industry jobs.
Activities in each area will be closely linked to the MRSEC, taking full advantage of expertise and ongoing programming to enhance participants’ experiences well beyond that achievable by NCCU acting alone. The high degree of interconnection in the measures listed above and close collaborations in the research projects will lead to more frequent and deeper interactions between NCCU and PSU participants that will benefit both groups. The research activities pursued through this partnership will also broadly benefit the fields of optoelectronics, photovoltaics, photocatalysis and sensors. The findings from this study will have significant implications for cost and performance optimization in designing nanomaterials-based devices and systems for a variety of applications, including gas sensing, solar cell development, pathogen detection and disinfection.