University receives three awards from National Science Foundation

Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 5:46pm

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Dearborn) announced recently that the University of Michigan would receive three awards from the National Science Foundation. A cumulative $8,062,199 will span across three separate academic areas to combat a diverse range of global issues.

“This NSF funding will go towards advancements in STEM education, manufacturing systems and food production that will help solve some of our most pressing challenges and ensure we continue to lead in a 21st century global economy,” Dingell said in press release.

The largest of the three awards, $2,999,968, will be allocated to a project called “Advancing Technologies and Improving Communication of Urine-Derived Fertilizers for Food Production within a Risk-Based Framework,” which aims to convert human urine into a safe fertilizer for agricultural crops.

Engineering Prof. Nancy Love, along with four other University researchers, will kickstart the project by installing special waterless urinals and “source-separating” flush toilets in the George Granger Brown Memorial Laboratories on North Campus to direct all urine to a holding tank. The urine will eventually be used as fertilizer in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Love was unavailable for immediate comment.

The next largest grant, $2,699,839, will be awarded to the project called “Organizing to Learn Practice: Teacher Learning in Classroom-Focused Professional Development,” headed by Education Lecturer Meghan Shaughnessy.

“We're studying how teachers learn from opportunities to watch teaching,” said Deborah Ball, former dean of the School of Education. “And we're studying all kinds of different conditions that will allow us to learn more about which formats will work best to help teachers learn to improve their teaching of math.”

Ball outlined the vast array of costs the grant will cover, such as the cost of supplies, the wages of research assistants and tuition support for graduate students.

The last award, $2,362,392, will be granted to Engineering Prof. Dawn Tilbury and her team at the “Collaborative Research: Software Defined Control for Smart Manufacturing Systems” project.

“Our new project has the potential to increase manufacturing productivity, which can increase profits for manufacturers while decreasing costs for consumers,” Tilbury wrote in an email.

Tilbury emphasized the role of students in the project, highlighting the potential for involvement by undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows. However, she also pointed out that with such a large student workforce, the biggest category in the budget will likely be salary and tuition support for graduate students.

Overall, the NSF supports research efforts by students and professors alike and acts as a source of tremendous opportunity, Ball said.

“NSF is a great organization; they support basic research in science and engineering, as well as helping to educate the future workforce by training them through research projects.”