RSS feed source: National Science Foundation

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a nearly $20 million award that will support the construction of a nanoscale fabrication facility at the University of Colorado Boulder to accelerate the co-design and development of atomic-photonic quantum devices, positioning the U.S. as a global leader in quantum science and engineering.

The new NSF National Quantum Nanofab (NQN) will enable quantum device fabrication, characterization, and packaging capabilities that are essential to advancing applications ranging from quantum computers and networks to atomic clocks, and advanced quantum sensors. Funded as part of NSF’s Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure 1 (Mid-scale RI-1) program, NQN will be an open-access national facility for academic, government and industrial users.

“U.S. researchers need cutting-edge tools to stay at the forefront of science and technology,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. “By strategically investing in infrastructure like NSF’s National Quantum Nanofab, we are strengthening opportunities for all Americans and positioning the U.S. as a global leader in quantum science and technology.” 

The NQN facility will feature cutting-edge instrumentation that will advance the design, fabrication, process development, and heterogeneous integration challenges encountered with quantum devices constructed from neutral atoms and ions that are interfaced and addressed with optical photons, in environments that may include high vacuum and cryogenic temperatures. Currently, quantum systems rely on bulk optics that require complex controls, and the new technologies enabled by this facility will allow integrated quantum systems that are

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RSS feed source: National Science Foundation

Data access and discovery continue to be topics of great interest across the federal data ecosystem. The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the U.S. National Science Foundation supported a pilot study seeking to understand how public data are being used in research publications, possibly enabling the government to make more transparent, informed decisions about public investments. This project, the “Democratizing Data Search and Discovery Platform,” was the subject of a recent special issue of the Harvard Data Science Review, which highlighted the findings, successes and lessons learned from the pilot and explored the potential of technology and artificial intelligence to build on these initial efforts. 

As part of the special issue, NCSES Director Emilda Rivers and Science Advisor May Aydin co-authored an article that discusses the potential for using AI to classify data sets, a particular challenge at NCSES, where data labels do not always map to the agency’s mission categories. Natural language processing, semantic analysis and machine learning could potentially be used to develop different sets of metadata topic labels for different needs.

Rivers, alongside the three other agency heads who participated in the pilot study, sat down for a fireside chat, hosted by former U.S. Chief Statistician Nancy Potok, to explore the significance of understanding data used to inform decision-making. 

“It’s very important for us that we’re able to talk about

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A wide range of innovative products, from biomedical implants to aerospace composites, come from research in materials informatics (MI) — the combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence and computational methodologies with materials science. As industries recognize the potential of MI to enhance rapid materials production, researchers funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program are examining ways to strengthen workforce training at the graduate level to ensure that institutions of higher education are producing highly skilled STEM leaders in this area. 

A recent Science Advances article highlights how three NSF NRT projects are focused on improving the quality of MI workforce training programs. 

Credit: John Zich

Each NRT project showcases how cross-disciplinary and industry partnerships are crucial to workforce training programs at the University of Chicago, Duke University and the University of Illinois. The article details how researchers at these universities are addressing the need for graduate training programs that feature rigorous preparation in AI/machine learning and materials science; interdisciplinary collaboration; and multi- institution, industry and lab partnerships. As training programs at the graduate level can often function in a silo, meaningful collaborations between programs are essential and provide graduate students with the needed interdisciplinary mindset, skills and knowledge to succeed in MI research.

That is why partnerships like these are key —

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Although they have been known to mariners for centuries — having aided in shipwrecking Columbus and sinking parts of the Spanish Armada — scientists have not been able to determine how shipworms digest wood, until now.

Sometimes known as “termites of the sea,” shipworms are actually mollusks that have snake-like bodies and feed on the wood submerged in the ocean including tree trunks, logs, docks, wharfs and other marine structures. Unlike the terrestrial insects they get their nickname from, however, shipworms weren’t known to have the symbiotic microbes in their guts needed to digest lignin, the hardest part of wood. 

U.S. National Science Foundation-supported researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently found the microbes hiding in an overlooked sub-organ known as the typhlosole, thought to be a mixing structure. Finding these bacteria required precise culturing and advanced metagenomic and microscopy techniques.

Credit: Jody Jellison

Researcher Barry Goodell examines a piece of wood attacked by shipworms. New NSF-funded research discovered symbiotic bacteria that allow the shipworm to digest wood in a previously over-looked sub-organ, the typhlosole. The discovery solves a long-standing mystery and could have implications for the bioeconomy.

The discovery of this hidden bunch of bacterial symbionts not only helps answer an age-old mystery, but also holds promise for novel biotechnologies. The enzymes the bacteria

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