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April 26, 2005 :: Federal Funds Will Help Boost Defense-Related Research on College Campuses

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Defense-related research conducted by scientists from three of Oklahoma’s largest universities can move forward now that some much-needed federal funding has been secured.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced that Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; the University of Oklahoma, Norman; and The University of Tulsa will share more than $11 million with 17 other schools nationwide for research projects in science and engineering fields important to national defense. Awards will average $422,000.

A total of 27 projects across the nation received awards as part of the Defense Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR), which is designed to expand research opportunities in states that have traditionally received less federal funding for university research. Of the 22 states that competed, Oklahoma was the only one to receive more than two awards.

"Success on the battlefields of the future will require not only the courage and discipline that are always displayed by our armed forces, but also the best possible high-technology weaponry and command and control systems. The research being carried out by Oklahoma's scientists with funding provided by the Defense EPSCoR Program will provide these vital tools,” said Dr. Frank Waxman, director of Oklahoma EPSCoR.

Oklahoma had requested nearly $3 million from the Department of Defense; however, the actual award amounts won’t be determined until later, Waxman said.

James Shaffer, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at OU, received a DEPSCoR award for his research that may lead to the development of better global positioning devices for land and space. Navigational sensors use light waves to make current GPS devices work, but Shaffer’s research will focus on how atoms and the collisions they make in nature could greatly improve
sensors in GPS devices. The key to developing these atom-based sensors, according to Shaffer, is to control the collisions.

“Our research investigates some of the most fundamental processes in nature. Just to see a collision as it takes place in nature is amazing. Watching these atoms and molecules at a quantum level is extremely interesting to us. It’s a whole lot different than what we experience in our everyday lives,” Shaffer said.

OSU’s recipients, Samit Roy, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Johnson Thomas, assistant professor of computer science, are also hopeful that their research will help the U.S. military in its defense of our nation.

Roy’s proposal focuses on high-temperature polymer matrix composites for aircraft engines and frames. These composites can have short life spans because of environmental factors such as high temperatures, pressure and moisture. Roy and his fellow researchers want to develop ways the aerospace industry can accurately predict the life expectancy of these composites.

Looking for ways to improve sensors used in military applications, including their survivability, security and reliability, is the goal of Thomas’s research. Among other studies, his research team will also look for ways to retrieve lost data if sensor batteries die before the information can be extracted.

"This grant allows us to investigate critical issues in the increasingly important field of sensor networks, and it also fosters research collaboration among Oklahoma universities," Thomas said.

In addition, TU computer science professor Rosanne Gamble will receive an award for her fundamental research on integrated software systems and their security certification.

“Oklahoma stands alone as the state that has received more than two of these awards and I believe that speaks volumes about the quality of research we are doing in our state. I am pleased that with these awards Oklahoma universities will continue to contribute valuable research to the end goal of saving American lives and further securing our nation,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R- Oklahoma.

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(Note: Jenny Colton, senior staff writer for OSU’s The Daily O’Collegian, contributed to the writing of this news release.)