WSE Awarded $81.6 Million to Continue Professional Research Program with NIST

  • July 31, 2023
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The Whiting School of Engineering Office of Research and Translation received a second five-year cooperative agreement and award for $81.6 million to administer the Professional Research Experience Program (PREP) for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offices located in Gaithersburg. This award is a $50 million increase from the initial $30 million award received in 2018 for the setup of a consortium run by WSE. The increase allows the program to grow and restructure the consortium, adding more schools and prioritizing a greater focus on under-represented populations.

Supported by this new award, Hopkins is leading the consortium comprising eight universities—six of which are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and will fall under the HBCU Hub—a subset of the consortium led by Morgan State University (MSU). The HBCUs include MSU, Bowie State University, Coppin State University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Tuskegee University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. SUNY Binghamton University is also a member of the consortium but does not fall within the HBCU Hub. Reflecting this growth, Hopkins NIST PREP Consortium is now the Hopkins-Morgan HBCU Consortium-PREP Gaithersburg (HMHC).

The NIST PREP combines educational programs with real-world experiences to help students understand industry demands and advance measurement science. This opportunity provides students at various levels with experiences they would not otherwise be exposed to, working at NIST labs alongside NIST scientists. Graduate students also receive a tuition stipend during their time in the program. The NIST PREP also enables university faculty to collaborate with NIST scientists on research projects.

“For the past five years, Morgan State University, through our partnership with Johns Hopkins University in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Professional Research Experience Program (PREP), has provided several of our outstanding students the opportunity to conduct hands-on, cutting-edge research with scientists at one of the world’s most advanced research facilities,” said Willie May, Vice President of Research and Economic Development at Morgan State University. “We are now excited for the opportunity to expand the program and make this experience possible for an even larger number of our students at Morgan plus those from five additional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).”

“HBCUs are underutilized national resources. Through NIST PREP, we are working with JHU to educate and provide experiential learning experiences needed to provide the U.S. STEM Workforce of the future and maintain US global competitiveness,” May continued.

During the first five years of JHU’s NIST PREP, 133 people participated in the program, studying in a variety of areas including sustainable energy, genetic analysis, biomedical sciences, and community resilience to natural disasters.

“Within the NIST Hurricane Maria Program, I am involved in a National Construction Safety Team project focused on hazard characterization, including investigation of the influence of topographic effects on the wind environment,” said Yunjae Hwang, a JHU postdoc and guest researcher in the NIST Structures Group through the under the previous JHU PREP contract. Hwang applies computational fluid dynamics techniques to study turbulent boundary layer flow over complex topography such as forest canopy.

Partnering with universities enhances the collaborative nature of NIST PREP, enabling a wider range of experts to work together and solve a greater variety of problems.

Ben Schafer, a JHU guest researcher in the NIST Earthquake Group, is studying new methods for seismic assessment of buildings. “The depth and breadth of NIST’s seismic expertise combined with my domain expertise in cold-formed steel buildings and structures has allowed us to advance several issues that are helping to enable engineers to create more resilient buildings,” said Schafer, the Williard and Lillian Hackerman Professor of Civil and Systems Engineering at the Whiting School and founding director of the university’s Ralph S. O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute.

The funding for this new award will run through March 31, 2028, and is open to undergraduate students, graduate students, individuals with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, post-doctoral fellows, senior research fellows, and academic affiliates such as faculty and lecturers.

For more information about the program or to apply, please visit NISTPREP.engineering.jhu.edu or email HMHC@jhu.edu.