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This week, U.S. National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan welcomed the nine winners of the Visionary Interdisciplinary Teams Advancing Learning (VITAL) Prize Challenge to NSF headquarters. 

The VITAL Prize Challenge asked teams to take novel approaches to bringing new, emerging innovations to K-12 learning. The competition began with 100 teams in the Discovery Round, 54 teams advancing to the semi-final round and 18 teams further advancing to the final round. Transformative innovations from the winning teams include hyper-personalized career discovery for young people, a game-based learning platform to support problem-based learning, and multisensory learning systems for students who are blind or have low vision. 

This $6 million prize challenge is possible through a partnership between NSF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures and the @Walton Family Foundation.

Learn more about the innovations, winners and details behind NSF’s VITAL Prize Challenge

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The U.S. National Science Foundation has selected Kaye Husbands Fealing to head the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE).

Husbands Fealing is dean of the Georgia Institute of Technology Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and former chair of the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy. She specializes in the science of science and innovation policy, the public value of research expenditures and the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields and the workforce. 

“Dr. Husbands Fealing’s expertise and experience as a leader both in academia and government are rich perspectives that we need as we advance this agency into the future,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. “Kaye has an excellent track record of fostering scientific discovery and the mission of NSF, and she brings the kind of enterprise focus that we need to promote the progress of science and advance the nation’s health, prosperity, and welfare.”

Before her position at Georgia Tech, Husbands Fealing taught at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs and was a study director at the National Academy of Sciences. Prior to her time at the University of Minnesota, she was the William Brough professor of economics at Williams College, where she began her teaching career in 1989. 

She developed and was the inaugural program director for NSF’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy program

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The U.S. National Science Foundation announced the winners of the Visionary Interdisciplinary Teams Advancing Learning (VITAL) Prize Challenge. Launched in the fall of 2022, the VITAL Prize Challenge takes a novel approach to bringing new, emerging innovations to K-12 learning, with a focus on rapid and continuous learning assessment and mathematical literacy to promote a future science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce, and other innovative concepts and technologies to support diverse communities of K-12 student learners and teachers. 

“These innovations will have a transformational impact on the learning landscape, catalyzing a new generation of emerging technologies and innovations for K-12 learning for all learners all across the U.S.,” said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. “The award-winning teams were selected through a rigorous, multistage process, with a focus on solutions that demonstrate strong potential for market adoption and impact among those who have traditionally been left out of STEM fields.”

Over the past nine months, participating teams across three technology tracks have received training from industry experts, mentorship from educators and research and development support through three competitive rounds of programming. The competition began with 100 teams in the Discovery Round; 54 teams advancing to the semi-final round and 18 teams further advancing to the final round. Earlier this month, the teams presented their minimum viable prototypes in live pitch

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The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded over $12.7 million across nine research teams to understand better the untapped capabilities of ribonucleic acid (RNA) for potentially far-reaching biotechnology applications, from disease prevention in crops to cancer-fighting therapies. The nine teams will each receive $1 million to $1.65 million from NSF through the Molecular Foundations for Biotechnology (MFB) program, a joint effort of NSF in partnership with the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). NHGRI plans to invest in additional projects to be announced later in 2024, which will focus on the development of novel technologies to investigate RNA biology. 

“Innovative new modes of inquiry into the molecular-level structure, dynamics and function of RNA is expected to lead to significant biotech breakthroughs at the intersection of chemistry and biology,” says NSF’s Chemistry Division Director David Berkowitz. “By advancing this fundamental science, we open the door to new avenues of use-inspired research and applications that can benefit society and improve our quality of life.” 

“We are excited to partner with NSF to support research into the structures, interactions, functions and applications of RNA,” says Carolyn Hutter, Director of the Division of Genome Sciences at NHGRI. “New tools and technologies that harness RNA research have the potential to transform the biomedical field and improve human health.” 

RNA is a complex organic molecule that performs

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