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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    A Crash Course in Research Proposals

    Dr. Arthur B. Ellis, Ph.D.,Director of the Division of Chemistry at the National Science Foundation (NSF),spoke to chemistry professors, students and faculty on building a strongrelationship between the NSF and the chemistry community at Stony Brook.

    ‘?We want to buildstrength, agility’community, strength of research, efficiency and a morecohesive community that works for a common purpose,’ Ellis said.

    Ellis spoke to researchersas part of the Chemistry Provost’s Lecture Series concerning issues likegrant proposals, research opportunities for students in chemistry, and theexpansion and sharing of new ideas with other schools and institutionsworldwide.

    NSF is an independent agencyof the U.S. government that initiates and supports scientific and engineeringresearch and educational programs through grants and contracts. Each year,about $5 billion from federal funding goes to NSF. Subsequently, theorganization receives and processes proposals for research grants from aroundthe country.30 percent of theproposals are funded each year. Ellis’s talk focused on the methods forinsuring a strong proposal backed with solid research for an award from theNSF.

    ‘?Proposals areevaluated on two basic principles: intellectual merit, and broader impact onsociety,’ Ellis said.

    Ellis said he believes thatthe strength of a community’s research is grounded in trainingundergraduate and graduate chemistry students in the skill of writing proposalswith worthwhile ideas and purposeful research goals.

    ‘?We create knowledgeand we communicate that knowledge,’ he contended.‘?We need to train students topropose and organize.’

    But regardless of thestrength of the proposal, Ellis continued, the impact of research may not beseen until many years down the line.He went on to describe the procedure for proposing high-riskexperimental research that may not produce rapid results.

    Ellis also offered ideas forthe university to expand its undergraduate research opportunities. One mainchallenge facing research universities is to get motivated freshmen andsophomores into research labs. Ellis explained that international and globalideas for networking are becoming more and more vital to the progress of anyinstitution.

    ‘?We’re seeingmore examples of graduate students seeking outreach opportunitiesabroad,’ Ellis said.‘?Students can be given the opportunity to learn various tools andtechniques.’

    The lecture was part of theNSF’s efforts to branch out to a chemistry community that producesresearch ideas. ‘?We hold workshops and individuals give us feedback.[Researchers] can network with each other also,’ Ellis explained.

    Ellis introduced the conceptof ‘?Dear Colleague’ letters that give research peers to stay intouch and share ideas through a newly found network of partners. The talks thathe gives are intended to foster the formation of those bonds and giveresearchers a way to impart ideas via the connection they form with the NSF.

    Arthur B. Ellis is a Meloche-BascomProfessor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He hasreceived several distinguished teaching awards, including the NSFDirector’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars in 2001. In additionto his research on chemical sensors, Dr. Ellis is involved in efforts tointegrate Material Sciences into the chemistry curriculum. He received hisPh.D. in inorganic chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology andcurrently works for the NSF in Washington, D.C.

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