FY10 Provisional Fringe Benefit Rates

The Office of Naval Research has recently issued a provisional Fringe Benefit rate for Michigan Tech.  Effective July 1, 2009, the regular and grant funded employee’s fringe rate of 42.6% will be applied to all funds.

Effective immediately, the regular and grant funded employee fringe benefit rate of 42.6% will be used in Sponsored Programs proposal budgets.  The new fringe benefit rate will apply to supplemental or additional funding where funding is added for work beyond what was contained in the original agreement.  The funding will generally be given a new index number in order to be separated from the funding in the original agreement.

For existing and incrementally funded Sponsored Programs, the fringe rate for regular and grant funded employees will be the lower of the rates used in the proposal budget or the new 42.6% rate.

The existing rates for the employee types, as described below, will be applied to all funds and will also be used in Sponsored Programs proposal budgets:

  • Extra Compensation: 20.2%
  • Temporary Employees: 10%
  • Graduate Students: 8.75%
  • Undergraduates: 0%

The current provisional rate agreement can be found on the Research Offices website at http://www.mtu.edu/research/references/facts-figures/.


FY10 Provisional Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Rates

The Office of Naval Research has recently issued provisional (temporary) F&A rates for Michigan Tech.  Although these rates were effective as of July 1, 2009, they are to be used in Sponsored Programs budgets that have a proposal submission deadline on or after August 1, 2009.

What does this mean for sponsored projects?  For existing projects and incrementally funded projects, the rates in effect at the time the project was awarded will continue to be charged.  For projects awarded under the provisional rates, the provisional rate will be charged until the pre-determined (final) rate agreements are fully-executed.   Incrementally funded projects exist when incremental awards will be received throughout the approved project period referenced in the original agreement; therefore, these project F&A rates would remain the same.  The new rates will apply to supplemental or additional proposals where funding is being requested for work beyond what was contained in the original agreement.   When awarded, the supplemental and additional funding will generally be given a new index number in order to account for the different rates.

The current provisional rate agreement can be found on the Sponsored Programs Office website at http://www.mtu.edu/research/references/facts-figures/.


Graduate Student Estimating Tables for Proposal Budgets (FY10)

The graduate student estimating tables for stipend levels and tuition and fee rates has been updated.  These rates are to be used in proposal budgets to external sponsors.  You can find the tables at Sponsored Programs Budget Estimating Tables.

These rates are effective immediately.


National Science Foundation Proposal Submission Change

The Sponsored Programs Office would like to inform you of the following proposal submission change. Due to an expected increase in Grants.gov submissions relating to the processing of Recovery Act proposals, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has authorized agencies to use alternative methods for proposal submission and acceptance.

Effective immediately, new funding opportunities issued by NSF will exclusively require the use of FastLane to prepare and submit proposals. NSF plans to revise existing funding opportunity documents to reflect this change and to remove all active application packages from Grants.gov APPLY. Updated NSF information about available funding opportunities will be posted to Grants.gov FIND.

Once you have identified your grant opportunity, be sure to carefully read the instructions to ensure you are following proper submission procedures for that application, even if you have applied before. Grants.gov will still be the one place to find all available federal grant opportunities and all opportunities will include specific application instructions, including instructions for submitting applications outside of Grants.gov.

These agencies will be accepting some or all applications outside of Grants.gov: Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Education (DOED), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Treasury, Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Air and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Please pay close attention to the grant announcements and application instructions for these agencies.

Detailed instructions regarding the technical aspects of proposal preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/.

If you have any questions contact the Sponsored Programs Office at 487-2226.


Rolf Peterson and Craig Friedrich Named to Robbins Endowed Chairs

Two distinguished researchers at Michigan Technological University have been named to sustainability chairs endowed by Tech alumnus Richard Robbins and his wife, Bonnie.

Rolf Peterson, research professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, will hold the Robbins Chair in Sustainable Management of the Environment, formerly held by the late David Karnosky.

Craig Friedrich, associate chair and director of graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, was appointed to the Robbins Chair in Sustainable Design and Manufacturing.

These chairs and a third one in sustainable materials that was filled in August 2008 by David Shonnard, professor of chemical engineering, were made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Robbins.

“Dick and Bonnie Robbins recognize that our students’ understanding of the fragile nature of the world around them depends on their direct experience with today’s environmental challenges, both in the classroom and in research,” said Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz.

Robbins, who graduated from Michigan Tech in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, and his wife expressed confidence that the three sustainability chairs will “add impact to Michigan Tech’s interdisciplinary work to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.”

Peterson, who has taught at Michigan Tech since 1975, heads the University’s world-renowned wolf-moose predator-prey study at Isle Royale National Park. The longest continuous wildlife study in the world, the wolf-moose study celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. Peterson’s research focuses on the ecology of the wolf and its prey. Of special concern to him is the challenge of the recovery of wild carnivores, exemplified by the gray wolf.

“This is a challenge because these species compete directly with human interests, and we have typically persecuted them for centuries,” the wildlife ecologist said. “The School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech is strategically placed, geographically and in terms of faculty expertise, to play a key role in understanding the broad implications of carnivore recovery.”

Peterson earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a PhD in wildlife ecology from Purdue University. He has won Michigan Tech’s annual research award, the Isle Royale Institute Founders’ Award and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. A board member and secretary of the International Wolf Center’s Board of Directors, Peterson also is an expedition leader for Research Expedition volunteers studying the wolves and moose of Isle Royal. The US Fish and Wildlife Service appointed him team leader of the Recovery Team for the Eastern Gray Wolf.

Friedrich has taught and conducted research at Michigan Tech since 1997. He has been researching mechanical microtechnologies or microscopic technologies for 20 years. For the past seven years, he has focused on two types of nanotechnologies: bionanosensors that could allow non-invasive detection of normal and abnormal physiology—for example, blood glucose monitors that do not require a finger prick; and bionanomaterials that could scavenge sustainable energy from light.

His current research focuses in four areas: development of micromechanical insertion tools for cochlear implants; orthopedic implant rods with surfaces suitable for impregnation with drugs to promote bone regrowth and antibiotics to reduce risk of infection; a signaling mechanism based on a protein that converts light to an electrical charge; and manufacturing of optical micro-waveguides, similar to optical fibers, that can greatly increase the speed of communications on and among circuit boards.

“The first three help sustain the quality and security of life, and the fourth will help sustain technological leadership,” the professor of mechanical engineering said.

Friedrich holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma State University. He is director of Michigan Tech’s Multi-Scale Technologies Institute, involving interdisciplinary research by 30 faculty members from 12 departments. He also oversees the graduate program for nearly 200 graduate students in mechanical engineering.

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university, conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, computing, technology, business and economics, natural and physical sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.


Effective May 1, 2009—48 Hour Proposal Submission Deadline

Effective May 1, 2009, the Sponsored Programs Office (SPO) is implementing an internal deadline for all external proposal submissions. The completed technical proposal and all applicable internal paperwork are to be submitted to the Sponsored Programs staff 48 hours or more prior to the sponsor’s deadline (excluding weekend hours). The SPO staff will not submit a proposal if it is received after the internal deadline, even if it is received prior to the sponsor’s deadline. If a proposal deadline is outside normal business hours, the 48 hour deadline is counted from the end of normal business hours on the due date.

Due to capacity issues with grants.gov, we recommend that the complete proposal and all applicable internal paperwork be submitted to the Sponsored Programs staff five business days or more prior to the sponsor’s deadline for grants.gov submissions.



Solving a Subatomic Shell Game

Physicists at Michigan Technological University have filled in some longtime blank spaces on the periodic table, calculating fundamental properties of the lanthanides, a series of 15 elements known as rare earths.

Specifically, they have determined their electron affinities, the amount of energy required to detach an electron from an anion, or negative ion (an atom with an extra electron orbiting around its nucleus). Elements with low electron affinities (like iron) give up that extra electron easily. Elements with high electron affinities (like chlorine) do not.

“I remember learning about electron affinities in 10th grade chemistry,” said Research Associate Steven O’Malley. “When I began working as a grad student in atomic physics, I was surprised to learn that many of them were still unknown.”

Among them were the lanthanides, which are used in the production of lasers and sunglasses. In terms of their atomic structure, lanthanides are among the most complex elements on the periodic table, which is why no one had been able to calculate their electron affinities before.

Here’s what makes them so tricky. Electrons orbit in shells around an atom’s nucleus, something like the layers of an onion, but in stranger shapes. Within each shell are a number of subshells. A subshell is like an egg carton: it can hold from one to a certain number of electrons, but no more.

Typically, as you work your way down and across the periodic table to larger and larger atoms, the inner shells fill up with electrons, and then new shells and subshells are formed and fill up pretty neatly.

That’s not what happens with the lanthanides. Before their so-called 4f subshell fills up, the additional electrons begin making new shells. Then, gradually, as you move across the periodic table to heavier atoms in the lanthanide series, that 4f subshell finally fills up with its maximum number of 14 electrons.

Why would this matter for electron affinity? A number of forces hold electrons in their orbits around the atom’s nucleus. Two simple ones are electrons’ attraction to protons in the nucleus and repulsion away from their fellow orbiting electrons, what physics professor Don Beck calls “the B.O. effect.”

The forces exerted by a full shell on the electrons orbiting farther from the nucleus are pretty constant, which had made it relatively easy to calculate the electron affinities of most elements. But if there are vacancies in the shell–as there are in the lanthanides–the electrons in that shell can move around, playing musical chairs, as it were.

The forces an electron exerts from each spot in the shell are different. And, in addition to simple electrical factors, there are many complex variables to contend with at the subatomic level, including relativistic and many-body effects.

“It’s a nightmare,” says Beck. With several electrons bouncing around in those 14 slots, over 200 different arrangements of electrons of the 4f subshell are possible in some of the lanthanides.

In 1994, the Beck research group, supported by the National Science Foundation, began work on one of the simpler lanthanide atoms, cerium. Then they started to approach the “nightmare” middle of the lanthanide row from both ends, one anion at a time. The most difficult was neodymium (Nd-) which took about six months.

In 2007, O’Malley and Beck began a final push to complete the remaining lanthanides (promethium through erbium) by

(1) narrowing down which variables to include in the calculations; and

(2) writing scripts and computer codes to automate much of the calculation.

Ultimately, they cut the overall work time by about 85 percent. In just 18 months, they found electron affinities for all the lanthanides, including electron affinities for high-energy, excited states of the anions. All in all, they discovered 118 lanthanide anion states, 63 of which were new.

What’s next? The team’s theoretical results have already been partially verified by experimentalists, but they are still working to better understand the lanthanides theoretically, to help identify just what is being measured experimentally.

In the meantime, they are turning their attention to the next row in the periodic table.

“We expect to have electron affinities for a portion of the actinides–actinum through plutonium–available sometime this summer,” Beck said.

For more in-depth information, visit http://www.phy.mtu.edu/~donald/ri.html#lea.


Grants.gov Proposal Submission Problems

The electronic proposal submission system named Grants.gov has numerous system performance issues and one affecting Michigan Tech is extremely slow server response time when submitting proposal applications. Institutions across the nation are experiencing this same issue. At Michigan Tech alone we had 3 proposals in the last two weeks that we were unable to submit due to slow server response time. This issue of slow response time is beyond the control of staff in the Sponsored Programs Office (SPO).

At a national meeting representatives from NIH said that there is not a quick fix to the slow server response time and that institutions need to plan accordingly and submit their proposals early. They also encouraged institutions not to wait until the day the application is due to submit their proposal but to instead submit early to ensure a successful application.

The SPO procedure for proposal submission states, the complete proposal and all applicable internal paperwork (i.e. transmittal sheet, budget, cost share forms, etc.) are due to the Sponsored Programs Office 48 hours prior to the submission deadline. At minimum we strongly encourage all faculty and staff to adhere to the 48 hours prior to submission deadline. We recommend the complete proposal and applicable internal paperwork be in the Sponsored Programs Office 72 hours prior to the submission deadline for Grants.gov applications.

If you have any questions about Grants.gov please contact SPO at 487-2226. Below are a few tips to help with Grants.gov applications.

  • For Adobe applications, you must use Adobe version 8.1.2 or newer.
  • The system is slower in the afternoon. It is best to submit applications in the morning.
  • For NIH proposals, even though it makes it through Grants.gov, it could experience errors once received by NIH. If this happens, the application needs to be fixed and resubmitted through Grants.gov within two days.

Sponsored Programs Accounting Needs to Expand Index Numbers

Due to the increase in sponsored funding projects over the past few years, we are running out of E2XXXX numbers to assign to sponsored projects.

Therefore, Sponsored Programs Accounting needs to expand the index nubmers to include “E4XXXX” index numbers for sponsor accounts.  Cost share accounts will now include “E5” index numbers and mimic the associated “E4” sponsor account.  For example, a sponsor account index E40101 would have a cost share index of E50101.  Graduate Assistance Cost Share will remain “E3” accounts.

If you have questions regarding this change, please contact Tammy LaBissioniere at the sponsored programs accounting office at 7-2244.