$5.4 Million Federal Cooperative Agreement Will Support Michigan Tech Student and Faculty Researchers

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Michigan Technological University has entered a $5.4 million cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Professional Research Experience Program, NIST PREP.

Michigan Tech’s NIST PREP agreement will support undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty participants. The program provides laboratory and financial assistance, with fellowships awarded to forward the continued growth and progress of science and engineering in the United States. With the addition of Michigan Tech, there are now 17 NIST PREP universities. Tech is the only NIST PREP institution in Michigan.

“Opportunities to work as a NIST PREP Fellow — conducting cutting-edge research under the advisory of a NIST sponsor — are open to any discipline or major,” said Vinh Nguyen, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) and NIST PREP coordinator at Michigan Tech. 

Nguyen worked as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at NIST from 2020 to 2022, just prior to joining the faculty at Michigan Tech.

There are many fields in standards and measurement where NIST and Michigan Tech have aligned research activities, including microelectronic fabrication, safe AI and environmental conservation,” he said.

“This partnership has the potential to significantly advance NIST’s mission in promoting U.S. commerce while promoting synergies amongst NIST and Michigan Tech personnel.”

Leading the NIST PREP Initiative at Michigan Tech

Greg Odegard, John O. Hallquist Endowed Chair in Computational Mechanics for ME-EM, is Tech’s NIST PREP manager. “This is an excellent opportunity for researchers at Michigan Tech and NIST to get connected for short-term collaborations and long-term partnerships. We are very fortunate to have this unique opportunity for our students,” he said.

Jeff Allen serves as NIST PREP undergraduate advisor. He is the John F. and Joan M. Calder Endowed Professor in ME-EM. 

Wayne Weaver is Michigan Tech’s NIST PREP graduate advisor. He is ME-EM’s associate chair and director of graduate studies.

Wayne Gersie, outgoing Michigan Tech vice president for diversity and inclusion, who also served as a research assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, was instrumental in writing the proposal.

“With the prestigious NIST award, MTU is poised to empower scholars who will act as catalysts, wielding influence to guide our society through the transformative currents of the 21st century,” Gersie said. “As a vanguard institution in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,

Michigan Tech takes pride and ownership in nurturing a diverse and representative community of future scholars, to innovate collectively as a society and effectively address critical areas of national importance.”

NIST PREP fellows and researchers are able to work in a wide range of fields, including computing, biology, environmental health, nanofabrication and robotics. They gain practical experience in calibration, standards and measurement science, as well as professional and career development from MTU and NIST advisors, which happens through the NIST PREP Individual Development Plan. 

In early October, Michigan Tech’s NIST PREP team will attend a NIST PREP symposium in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where students will present their research and network with NIST scientists.

While PREP opportunities are initiated by NIST personnel, Michigan Tech faculty are invited to engage with research collaborations that align with the NIST mission and skill set. “Michigan Tech faculty are welcome to discuss potential PREP opportunities with NIST personnel and fellows in their field,” Nguyen said.

One of the nation’s oldest physical science laboratories, NIST was founded in 1901 and is now part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The agency’s mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.