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News Tip


April 30, 2002


For more information on these science news and feature story tips, contact the public information officer listed at (703) 292-8070. Editor: Amber Jones

Global Science and Technology Week, April 28-May 4, 2002, highlights the universal nature of science and underscores the importance of math, chemistry, physics, biology and scientific education in today's increasingly global society. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports international collaborations in science and engineering research and education through grants for multinational, interdisciplinary teams; joint workshops; scientist exchanges; and government-to-government agreements. 

International Team Borrows from Nature to Create Synthetic, Self-Assembling Molecules

simulation graphic; caption is below
Simulation of a cubic lattice generated from the self-assembly of eight spherical single-molecule nanostructures.
Image Credit: M. Klein/E.G. Kim/V. Percec, University of Pennsylvania

A larger version is here. (1.58 MB)

The architecture of life consists of intricate structures of proteins and molecules that carry out biological and chemical functions. Using nature as a model, scientists from multiple nations recently collaborated to create a man-made, single-molecule structure that could lead to devices that perform similar functions.

Researchers from the United States, Germany, Japan, Netherlands and United Kingdom coaxed tens of thousands of atoms to self-assemble into nano-scale structures consisting of single large molecules. These building blocks, in turn, can be assembled into three-dimensional arrays with electronic, optical, chemical, or medical diagnostic properties.

NSF funds the research through an interdisciplinary research grant to team leader Virgil Percec and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania.

NSF has actively pursued cooperation in materials research and education throughout the world. In 2000, NSF signed an umbrella arrangement with the European Commission for cooperative research in materials science. NSF has also sponsored materials workshops in North America, South America, Asia Pacific and Africa. [Amber Jones]

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Sharing Literature Globally: Mathematicians Consider Virtual Library

Mathematicians are considering the prospect of a worldwide digital library for scholarly literature in the mathematical sciences.

Mathematicians, librarians, publishers and editors met informally at a January 2002 meeting of U.S. mathematical societies in San Diego, Calif., to explore the concept's benefits and obstacles. They discussed the need for international protocols and technical standards and reviewed efforts under way in countries such as France and Germany to digitize mathematics literature.

"A digital mathematics library could be part of a new world infrastructure for the mathematical and other sciences," said Philippe Tondeur, director of NSF's mathematical sciences division. "In fact, such a library could be the most significant development since the invention of scholarly journals to replace private correspondence among scientists--a prototype for future electronic-based cooperation." Such a repository, he explained, would make data available to scientists in many disciplines throughout the electronically connected world.

Some U.S. groups are tackling efforts to digitally archive mathematical literature. An NSF-funded project at Cornell University will enhance digital collections of mathematics monographs lodged in libraries at Cornell, the University of Michigan and a university in Germany. A privately funded project by Cornell's library and Duke University Press will help mathematics and statistics publishers establish online sites.

The American Mathematical Society's Web-based service, MathSciNet, provides information on and electronic navigation aids for locating published mathematical literature. [Amber Jones]

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Students and Teachers to Get Physics Research Experience in Switzerland

Twenty U.S. undergraduates and four high school teachers are headed to the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) this summer to work alongside some of the world's foremost physicists investigating the smallest particles known and the forces that hold them together.

An NSF-funded program each year allows students and teachers to conduct hands-on experiments with the accelerators and detectors at the world's largest particle physics research center near Geneva, Switzerland.

"This program gives students and teachers an opportunity to work in a prestigious research environment, where they learn from and interact with renowned scientists and with their own international peers," said NSF-supported physicist Stephen Reucroft of Northeastern University, who co-leads the program with Homer Neal of the University of Michigan.

"The summer program is contributing to two national goals: training candidates for the U.S. work force in high-energy and particle physics, and teaching those candidates how to work on an international team," said NSF program manager Lawrence Brown. The Internet, Brown said, increasingly allows U.S. physicists to collaborate with foreign colleagues.

The 54 students and teachers who have participated in the program engaged in projects ranging from searching for new elementary particles to predicting violations of scientific principles.

Caroline Jenkins, one of the early students to travel to CERN in 1999, is now studying for a master's degree in physics at Colorado State University. "I'm involved in the photovoltaics group here," Caroline said. "I did research in the area of semiconductors at CERN (for use as detectors), and that's when I first got interested in studying semiconductors." [Amber Jones]

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NSF Office Targets International Collaboration

NSF plays a lead role in more than two dozen international-scale projects and participates in others. The agency spends 5-10 percent of its budget on international activities, allowing at least 10,000 U.S. scientists and engineers to engage in international projects.

NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering (INT) promotes and supports ongoing partnerships between U.S. scientists and engineers and their foreign colleagues, as well as new cooperative projects, in any field supported by NSF.

Awards from INT range from small grants for visits to plan joint research to hundreds of thousands of dollars to link U.S. centers with others elsewhere. INT programs give international exposure to junior and minority researchers who may not otherwise gain that experience; for example, its summer programs send U.S. graduate students to Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The Women's International Science Collaboration Program helps women establish research partnerships with colleagues in Eastern Europe, the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union, Asia and elsewhere.

Support of international activities is an integral part of NSF's mission. Its international portfolio reaches back at least to the International Geophysical Year (1958-59), an unprecedented global research effort in 67 nations.

For more information, see the March 2002 report, "International Dimensions of NSF Research and Education," at: [Mary Hanson]

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U.S. Science Board Calls for Enhanced Federal Role in International Science

The National Science Board (NSB), in a recent report, acknowledged the need for the U.S. government to "integrate science and engineering more explicitly into broader global issues."

The report, Toward a More Effective U.S. Government Role in International Science and Technology, called for more effective management of collaborations, greater use of knowledge gained through science and technology to solve global problems, and more effective information exchange in order for the government to develop and make foreign policy decisions.

"If the United States is to maintain world leadership in science and engineering, and secure its long-term economic vitality, it must increasingly bring scientific knowledge to bear on international decision-making," NSB Chairman Eamon Kelly said. The report suggested that improved communication among science counselors and other U.S. embassy personnel would facilitate sharing of information critical to planning and decision making.

The NSB also recommended in the report a stronger international focus by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, more international collaborations by younger scientists and engineers, and increased cooperation with developing countries. [Bill Noxon]

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