UNH welcomed Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for a visit Friday, May 12, showcasing some of the research partnerships rooted on campus that bolster New Hampshire’s workforce and businesses and highlighting some of the many ways NSF support is making that work possible.
Panchanathan and Shaheen toured the John Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center and the InterOperability Lab (IOL); heard how NSF-funded projects such as NH BioMade and NH EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) are driving economic growth and workforce development in the state; and had the opportunity to interact directly with graduate students conducting cutting-edge research.
NSF investments continue to make a significant impact at UNH and throughout New Hampshire. In FY 2022, NSF awarded more than $15 million to UNH to conduct fundamental research on diverse topics, including advanced manufacturing, the impact of climate change and the Arctic, human-automation interaction for the future of work, and space weather.
“The University of New Hampshire is known as a place of innovation, as a place promoting discovery research, but what I learned here that amazes me is the way in which the university is working across disciplines seamlessly, the way in which infrastructure like the Olson Center is making possible new innovations and building products for the future – and, most importantly, training the talent of the future,” Panchanathan says.
The visitors were greeted at the Olson Center by UNH Provost Wayne Jones, Marian McCord, senior vice provost for research, economic engagement, and outreach and Cyndee Gruden, dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS).
John Roth, director of the Olson Center, kicked the morning off by leading a tour of the facility that in 2022 worked with more than 220 companies across multiple sectors to support their advanced manufacturing needs.
The tour featured a presentation about NH BioMade, which is made possible by the NSF’s EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program and aims to advance the design and manufacturing of the state’s growing biomaterials industry through knowledge generation, research seed funding and workforce development.
In addition, Greensource Fabrication, a New Hampshire company that’s a leader in the field of sustainable printed circuit board manufacturing, described their Olson Center partnership. Other companies in attendance included Airtho, Drop-Slice, Exail and Madco3D, all of which are currently partnering or exploring partnering with the Olson Center.
Along the way in the Olson Center several additional students highlighted the work they are doing in their own presentations, drawing enthusiastic questions from Panchanathan and Shaheen.
"It's really important to have Dr. Panchanathan here at UNH, to see what NSF is funding and what a difference that makes. The kind of work going on here is an attraction to students around the world."
“It’s really important to have Dr. Panchanathan here at UNH, to see what NSF is funding and what a difference that makes, and what it is going to lead to,” Shaheen says. “It was impressive to talk to some of these post-doctoral students about how they got here, and one of the reasons we heard from a number of them was because of facilities like the Olson Center. The kind of work going on here is an attraction to students around the world.”
Following the tour, Panchanathan and Shaheen viewed a presentation about the Convergent Arctic Research Perspectives and Education (CARPE) program led by Ruth Varner, professor of biogeochemistry.
Supported by NSF’s Navigating the Arctic program and an NSF Research Traineeship grant, CARPE prepares participating graduate students — several of whom were on hand to converse with Panchanathan and Shaheen — for careers addressing the challenges of a changing climate in the Arctic.
The next stop was UNHInnovation and the IOL, where the visitors had a working lunch featuring presentations about IncludeU, a program that trains academic partners to recognize and respond to bias incidents in academic settings, and the Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC), international leaders in sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention.
IncludeU is supported by NSF ADVANCE, an initiative created to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers. PIRC, also funded by NSF, aligns with NSF’s longstanding goal to end sexual harassment and misconduct in the scientific workforce.
The visit wrapped up with a tour of the IOL led by Jeff Lapak, director of the facility, and Marc Eichenberger, associate vice president and chief business development and innovation officer and managing director of UNHInnovation.
“We were thrilled to host Director Panchanathan and Senator Shaheen and for the opportunity to highlight the many partnerships that come together at UNH to support the businesses and economy of New Hampshire and the region,” Jones says. “We’re grateful to the senator and the director for their support of university research and for their continued investments in the faculty and programs that build our capacity and lead to new innovations.”