Yale University’s Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP) is one of National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) and is part of NSF’s Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation (CEMRI). The CRISP MRSEC is a partnership of two institutions: Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University, both in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP) discovers and develops novel atomically engineered materials and processes across a wide spectrum such as amorphous metals or artificially structured crystalline oxide interfaces. This research also serves as an effective vehicle for student recruitment, retention, and education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). CRISP includes two interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs): 1) the Atomic Scale Design, Control and Characterization of Oxide Structures IRG focuses on understanding and engineering the novel chemical, electronic, and magneto-electric phenomena that arise at atomically abrupt complex oxide interfaces; and 2) the Multi-Scale Surface Engineering with Metallic Glasses IRG addresses the grand challenge of how to control surface properties through topographical structuring at multiple length scales (examples include tailoring biocompatibility, reactivity, friction, adhesion, and wetting to efficiently functionalize surfaces for a wide range of new applications and devices). Each IRG relies on (i) unique, world-class expertise at Yale, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), and industrial, national laboratory, and international partners; (ii) demonstrated, seamless multi-disciplinary collaborations; and (iii) extensive shared facilities to address grand challenges in materials research through multi-faceted efforts that include physical and biological sciences, engineering, and interplay between state-of-the-art theory and experiment. The research is closely integrated with education and outreach (EO) efforts through partnerships among a major research university (Yale), the largest educator of teachers in the state (SCSU), and the economically distressed, under-represented minority (URM)-dominated New Haven Public School System (NHPS). These partnerships provide model programs for recruitment, retention, and broadened participation in STEM careers that may be replicated nationwide. Further, CRISP faculty members are committed to enhancing cultural, gender, ethnic and racial diversity among STEM students and faculty, and more broadly among science students, teachers, and researchers nationally.
For education and Human Resource Development, CRISP uses the interdisciplinary, innovative aspects of its research to enhance STEM recruitment, retention, education, and to broaden participation by under-represented groups. The focus is on two successful signature initiatives that are evolving based on continued quantitative outcome assessments. The Materials Research Center Initiative for STEM Education (MISE) enhances STEM recruitment and retention through professional development of teachers that enhances their teaching abilities. This efficiently impacts the largest number of students, resulting in a substantial multiplying effect. The Materials Research Center Initiative for Multidisciplinary Education and Research (MIMER) provides interdisciplinary team-based research and education opportunities to the entire spectrum of STEM professionals and students. Teams work on integrated IRG research projects that form bridges to multidisciplinary courses and training projects. The integration of these EO efforts with graduate research uniquely prepares CRISP participants to succeed in, and ultimately lead, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural efforts that are increasingly important to solve complex, large- scale problems. CRISP also prepares postdoctoral researchers for independent research careers by giving them latitude in defining research thrusts while providing them professional development training ranging from proposal writing to research management.
CRISP partnerships with national laboratories, industry, educational institutions, and state and local government agencies help CRISP realize its research and human resource development visions while broadening its impact. Key in-depth collaborations continue to be developed with Brookhaven and Argonne National Laboratories (BNL and ANL) that enable joint development of new characterization methods. Industrial partners, such as IBM or the PX Group, provide CRISP with a pathway towards commercialization of basic research findings. CRISP’s interactions with international universities are highlighted by Joint Research Centers with Peking University on Microelectronics and Nanotechnology and with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology on Advanced Atomic Force Microscopy Methods. Both endeavors involve joint projects and faculty and student exchanges, providing CRISP access to unique facilities at the partner institutions. CRISP’s partnership with the New Haven Public School System provides detailed teacher evaluation data for a predominantly minority- serving school system that enables CRISP to direct its professional development (PD) towards teachers with the greatest needs, providing them with individualized PD plans. CRISP also works with the Connecticut Office of Workforce Competitiveness to develop new EO programs that span K-12, community colleges, and PD.
The Division of Materials Research of the National Science Foundation has established a program to support “Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers” (MRSECs) to pursue forefront interdisciplinary materials research and education, while addressing fundamental problems in science and engineering that are important to society. MRSECs require outstanding research quality, intellectual breadth, interdisciplinarity, flexibility in responding to new research opportunities, and support for research infrastructure, and they foster the integration of research. MRSECs assess fundamental materials research topics of intellectual and technological importance, contribute to national priorities by fostering active collaborations between academia and other sectors, and enable researchers to address problems of a scope and complexity requiring the advantages of scale and interdisciplinarity provided by a campus-based research center.
MRSECs are supported by the NSF to undertake materials research of a scope and complexity that would not be feasible under traditional funding of individual research projects. A larger MRSEC center, called a Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation (CEMRI) encompasses multiple “interdisciplinary research groups” (IRGs). Each IRG involves several faculty members and associated researchers, addressing a major topic or area in which sustained support for interactive effort by several participants with complimentary backgrounds, skills, and knowledge is critical to progress. For example, the Yale/SCSU CEMRI has two IRGs focusing on interfaces and surfaces of complex oxides as well the the science, technology, and engineering of bulk metallic glasses. (Read More about this program)