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March 24, 2005 :: State Awarded $6 Million for Research Infrastructure Improvement

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) has awarded $6 million to Oklahoma to improve its scientific research infrastructure.

The Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant, matched by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education with an additional $3 million, will contribute to Oklahoma’s scientific community by providing equipment and human resources needed to boost research competitiveness.

The RII will build upon Oklahoma’s research strengths in genomics, bioinformatics and nanomaterials sciences and will create a new field of science uniting plant virus biodiversity and ecology. Studies in this new scientific field will utilize Oklahoma’s own pristine, never-cultivated Tallgrass Prairie Preserve located in northeastern Oklahoma, near Pawhuska.

The RII also supports new research in carbon nanotubes, novel nanoscale devices, fuel cells and interfaces of nanomaterials and biomaterials research by providing much-needed equipment.

“The Research Infrastructure Improvement award will help continue the momentum that Oklahoma scientists have gained in genomics and nanosciences from past NSF and State Regents support and will help develop a critical mass of researchers in the state while stepping up to the next level of competitiveness,” said Dr. Frank Waxman, EPSCoR director.

Additionally, the grant will provide a strong set of educational outreach initiatives to strengthen the human infrastructure needed to increase competitiveness for R&D dollars. The RII will also foster partnerships between the academic community and the private sector, Waxman said.\

The EPSCoR grant will offer research opportunities for faculty and students, scholarships, field trip grants for K-12 public schools and signature Oklahoma events such as Research Day at the Capitol, women in science conferences and NSF grants workshops to further encourage collaboration and development within Oklahoma’s scientific community. The RII aims to impact the quantity and quality of students and graduates prepared to enter Oklahoma emerging high-technology businesses.

“This grant comes at a time when research in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and genomics is helping Oklahoma move one step closer to becoming the ‘Research Capital of the Plains.’ The State Regents are pleased to be able to provide financial support for this very worthwhile research, and we wish Oklahoma EPSCoR continued success,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said.

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., a supporter of the Oklahoma EPSCoR program, said, “This is great news for Oklahoma. Oklahoma institutions and our researchers, like Dr. Waxman, have proven time and time again that they can compete successfully for major research grants when simply given the opportunity.”

EPSCoR, originally developed by the NSF 25 years ago, is designed to expand research opportunities in states that have traditionally received less funding in federal support for university research.

Oklahoma EPSCoR is a partnership among colleges and universities, industry and research institutions. Its mission is to make Oklahoma researchers more successful in competing for research funding. Specific goals, objectives and strategies are developed for each federal EPSCoR program, based on federal and state needs.