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Media Advisory 11-008

NSF to Spotlight International Research Partnerships at Feb. 15th Symposium in Arlington

Programs based in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America come to NSF to show their stuff

hands holding a globe with the acronym PIRE and illustrations in the background.

NSF hosts the inaugural PIRE Symposium on Feb. 15 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

February 14, 2011

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and its Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) on the afternoon of Feb. 15 will showcase its highly successful program: PIRE, Partnerships in International Research and Education. The symposium will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Arlington Hilton.

NSF's PIRE program, instituted in 2005, supports innovative, international research and education collaborations to advance three goals: to advance new knowledge and discoveries at the frontiers of science and engineering; to promote the development of a diverse, globally-engaged U.S. scientific and engineering workforce; and to build the institutional capacity of U.S. universities to engage in fruitful international collaborations.  PIRE has supported bold, forward-looking research whose successful outcome results from all partners--U.S. and foreign--providing unique contributions to the research endeavor.

The symposium, entitled "Globalizing U.S. Science and Education," will include presentations from four projects with partnerships on four continents Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, portraying the global reach of PIRE. The projects assemble researchers from 26 countries:  Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Botswana, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Portugal, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Sweden, Tanzania, The Netherlands, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The projects--encompassing biology, geosciences, engineering, education, and chemistry--spotlight PIRE's wide disciplinary spread. Each project involves cutting edge research. AfricaArray, for instance, an innovative program to promote, strengthen and maintain a highly trained workforce of African geoscientists not only conducts research using seismic stations across Africa, but also is serving as a foundation for additional and broader environmental monitoring, as well as a model for seismic networks in other parts of the world.

What follows is a detailed agenda for the program to be held in the Master's Ballroom of the Arlington Hilton:

Session I - The PIRE Initiative

1:30 to 1:40 p.m. - Welcome by Mark Suskin, OISE Deputy Assistant Director

1:40 to 2:05 p.m. - Abhaya Datye, University of New Mexico, "Converting Biomass to Fuels & Chemicals: promoting innovation through international research partnerships"

Researchers from the University of New Mexico plus three other U.S. and four European institutions are investigating critical steps required for chemical transformation of biomass-derived reactants into useful products. Their five year plan for collaborative research focuses on metal-catalyzed conversion of carbohydrates and their derivatives to chemicals, fuels and materials.

2:05 to 2:30 p.m. - Andy Nyblade, Pennsylvania State University, "From deep Earth structure to global change research: advancing STEM partnerships through AfricaArray"

Scientists from Penn State, several other U.S. universities, and collaborators in universities and geological surveys in southern and eastern Africa are studying the African Superplume, a structure under Africa where a huge mass of the Earth's red-hot molten core extends further up into the Earth's mantle than in any other place on Earth, making it the largest geophysical anomaly on Earth.  AfricaArray has worked with dozens of countries across southern and eastern Africa to establish a network of seismic recording stations.

2:30 to 2:50 p.m. - Q & A, moderated by Jessica Robin (OISE PO - The Americas)

Session II - PIRE IV and a Focus on Sustainability

2:50 to 3:10 p.m. - Sustainability initiatives at NSF - Margaret Cavanaugh, deputy assistant director, NSF Directorate on Geosciences and SEES (Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability) working group.

3:10 to 3:35 p.m. - Susannah Scott, University of California (UC), Santa Barbara, "Chemical Approaches to sustainable energy production: A U.S.-China Collaboration in Catalysis"

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara and the Dalian Institute for Chemical Physics in China are working to understand how small particles on the surfaces of catalysts are able to speed up important chemical reactions. Stubborn chemical processes, like converting plant materials to ethanol, may become economically feasible when the chemistry of catalysis is better understood. The near goal is to design nano-scale surfaces with predictable chemical catalytic properties. The ultimate goal is to develop a predictive design theory and apply it to key industrial and environmental problems, such as pollution abatement, conversion of methane to liquid fuels, solar energy and industrial chemical production.

3:35 to 4 p.m. - Scott Saleska, University of Arizona, "Global Issues and Basic Research:  the Future of Amazonian Forests in a Changing Climate"

Research collaborators from the University of Arizona, several other U.S. universities, and universities and companies in Brazil, are studying the Amazon rainforest to better understand how tropical forests will respond to environmental change. Some models suggest that a warming globe will cause Amazonian forests to experience unprecedented drought. Climbing tall trees and digging deep pits is revealing how forests function to trap carbon and move water.

4:10 to 4:30 p.m. - Q & A, moderated by Jessica Robin and the NSF SEES working group

4:30 to 6:30 p.m. - Reception and opportunity for information interaction

Journalists interested in attending and/or interviewing researchers may contact and/or register online on the 2011 PIRE symposium registration page.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:

Program Contacts
Cynthia Sagers, NSF, (703) 292-8712, email:
Elizabeth E. Lyons, NSF, (703) 292-7256, email:
Michelle Kelleher, NSF, (703) 292-7208, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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