Oregon State University

The National Science Foundation Makes an Impact

Oregon State University researchers are successfully using NSF support to develop new energy technologies, increase knowledge of the environment, improve health, and more. NSF support for OSU research during Fiscal Years 2008-2012 totaled almost $225 million, with over $50 Million in FY12 alone. more data

Here are examples of NSF funds making a difference


 Sustainable Materials

Doug Keszler, Oregon State University chemist, and a team of scientists and engineers at Oregon State and the University of Oregonl are leading a national consortium that is greening the flat-panel display industry. The Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry is advancing the scientific enterprise and transforming the next generation of products, while preparing the next generation of green chemists.

With funding from NSF, Oregon State partnered with the University of Oregon to establish the center, which has labs and research teams on both campuses. Following discoveries that led to dramatic improvements in semiconductor performance and reductions in the use of toxic chemicals for production, that initiative has already spun off startup businesses and generated more than a dozen patents.

Two startups have already hired the center’s graduates. Amorphyx is commercializing a new electronics manufacturing process that limits the production of unwanted industrial byproducts. Moreover, it trims a six-part process to two steps, offering the possibility of tripling production capacity in an existing facility.

In collaboration with another spinoff, Inpria (www.inpria.com), the center has broken a barrier in high-resolution circuitry, going below the 20-nanometer scale and enabling computer chips to accommodate more functions at higher speeds.

The center's Research is distributed across three broad, interrelated themes: Cluster Chemistry, Film Chemistry, and Nanopatterning.

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Water, Wheels and Rails

Envision  is a new software system for looking into the future of the Willamette River Basin from all sorts of angles. Developed at OSU by engineer John Bolte,  Envision not only can create climate scenarios based on geography, hydrology, ecology, sociology and economics, it can toss all sorts of hypothetical human decisions into the mix and see how those might play out over time.

A multi-university project called Willamette Water 2100, funded by NSF and managed by OSU’s Institute for Water and Watersheds, uses Envision to capture the complexities of climate change, population growth and water availability in the river basin. Faculty at Portland State and the University of Oregon are collaborating with OSU’s team, led by hydologist Jeff McDonnell and Bolte.

“Envision is the best available tool for answering this question: How can we protect ecosystems and better manage and predict water availability for future generations given alterations to the water cycle caused by climate variability and change, and by human activity,” McDonnell and Bolte assert.

 If you want a cleaner, greener Oregon, a computer model can help you play with the levers. But you need to run more than one model. You need to run a lot of different scenarios in order to weigh all the alternatives, to compare and contrast so that you get the best outcome — the one that’s closest to your articulated goal. That’s what Envision lets you do.

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Magnetism and Climate

 An OSU postdoctoral scientist joined expedition to the Atlantic to look for clues to how the Earth’s climate interacts with its magnetic field. The expedition is part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international research program in which OSU scientists have played a leading role. Dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring, and monitoring the subseafloor, IODP is supported by NSF and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.

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Electricity from sewage
Research by OSU’s Hong Liu is nearing fruition on technology that can efficiently produce electricity or hydrogen gas — to power the hydrogen fuel cells in cars of the future — from ordinary sewage. The system also reduces pollutant levels in wastewater. NSF’s Directorate for Engineering provided support.   Read more; Also - Liu's NSF Early Career Award
Cape Arago waves
Wave energy

OSU is the nation’s academic leader in the creation of new technology, environmental studies and social outreach programs that will make vast reservoirs of ocean wave energy available. Innovations by electrical engineer Annette von Jouanne (Video) are supported by NSF’s Directorate for Engineering.  Read more    View Videos


Earth and Ocean Science

Tsunami Wave Basin
Groundbreaking studies of off-shore earthquake risks in the Pacific Northwest have led to tsunami tests at OSU’s Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory. Researchers are helping to design affordable, damage-resistant buildings that can aid communities and save lives. Harry Yeh, of coastal and ocean engineering, has received support from NSF's Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, and Chris Goldfinger, of marine geology and geophysics, has received support from NSF’s Directorates for Geosciences, and Ocean Sciences. Read more
Note: The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation experimental facilities include the OSU Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory. It is among the “NSF Sensational 60” (see item # 59, “Shaking off the Damage")

Abrupt climate change
Based on studies of ancient climate and ice cores, OSU researchers Peter Clark and Edward Brook have outlined mechanisms by which Earth’s climate has changed abruptly in the distant past. With funding from NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences, their studies
will help explain the potential risks of current climate changes. Read more; PISCO Article; Nature article

Ocean observing
With sponsorship by NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences, autonomous underwater gliders and moored sensor arrays are revealing new details about our coastal oceans, such as wind-driven currents that bring acidified, low-oxygen waters to the rich ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. Results by OSU’s Tim Cowles, biological oceanographer and program director of NSF’s National Ocean Observing Initiative, and Jack Barth, physical oceanographer, will guide ocean management plans. Read more


Materials Science and Chemistry

Perfectly clear, see? An interdisciplinary team of OSU faculty and students hold up samples of transpar-ent electronics developed through a collaboration between OSU professor of electrical engineering John Wager (second from right), OSU professor of chemistry Doug Keszler (right), and others. Pictured at left are graduate student Emma Kettenring and development engineer Chris Tasker. Transparent electronics
NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences has provided key support for OSU investigators John Wager and Doug Keszler, who have led engineers and chemists in creating the world’s first transparent transistors and integrated circuits. The technology is already finding applications in solar energy and may be used in flat-panel TVs, automobile windshields, cell phones and toys.  Read more

High-speed electronics
With support from NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, a team of OSU chemists, electrical engineers, and materials scientists has devised a way to influence and control the nearly instantaneous movement of electrons between two closely spaced metals.  This advance provides a new platform for substantially increasing the speed of circuits in personal computers and cell phones.  Read more 

A true blue discovery
While exploring manganese oxides for electronic properties, OSU material scientist Mas Subramanian and his team discovered a blue pigment that has advantages over previous materials: safer to produce, more durable and more environmentally benign — and soon to be found in products from cars to house paint. NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences has made this possible. Read more



IGERT faculty.

Healthy Aging
NSF's Division of Graduate Education has awarded a five-year Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) grant to OSU.  The program addresses key themes of understanding mechanisms of aging from molecular to societal levels; and engineering social and built environments to optimize aging. Students participate in research training in two of the research cores established in the OSU Center for Healthy Aging Research: 1) Diet and Genetic Factors; 2) Musculoskeletal Factors; 3) Psychosocial Factors; and 4) Gerontechnology. They earn an interdisciplinary minor in Aging Sciences in addition to a Ph.D.  Faculty leading this program are Karen Hooker (grant PI), Carolyn Aldwin, Tory Hagen, Ron Metoyer and Michael Pavol, along with 40 faculty associated with the Center for Healthy Aging Research. Read More



The Gramene database is revolutionizing the application of genomics to crop development. Pankaj Jaiswal, a creator of the library of datasets, helps lead trans-disciplinary scientific collaboration and educational outreach  supported by the NSF.  The work is furthering understanding of relationships among species, particularly corn, rice, wheat, which collectively provide about 80% of the world’s calories, as well as helping in the breeding of characteristics such as yield, growth, disease resistance and drought tolerance. 

Read more  feature article ; homepage   ; CGRB faculty ; Lab
Project websites:  Gramene  ; Plant Ontology


and more NSF-funded projects by OSU researchers

Anticipating Water Scarcity

National Science Foundation/ Water Sustainability and Climate provided funding for a collaborative project to anticipate water scarcity and inform integrative water system.  PI Jeffrey McDonnell of the Institute for Water and Watersheds is leading the examination of hydrological, ecological and socio-economic factors of water use and diversions in the Willamette River Basin. The team applies Envision, a theoretical framework developed at OSU with funding from NSF and other sources, which contains a multi-agent-based modeling component to evaluate human decision-making on landscape change and can be used to augment the traditional “predict-then-act” paradigm with a more advanced “explore-then-test” paradigm. The team will work with UNESCO-Institute for Water Education to transfer Envision to researchers elsewhere, starting with two rivers in Ethiopia and South Africa.


Ocean Acidification

George Waldbusser of COAS is leading an NSF funded project towards a mechanistic understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on the early life stages of marine bivalves. Broader impacts include contact with a broad base of user groups, including aquaculture advocacy groups for developing outreach materials.


Fire-Prone Landscapes

John Bolte of  Biological and Ecological Engineering is PI on an NSF-sponsored study of interactions, dynamics and adaptation of coupled natural and human systems in fire-prone landscapes. With the novel collaborative learning effort, valuable information will reach landowners, managers, and institutions with the greatest potential to change how humans adapt, and will be of interest to scientists around the world. Inclusion of tribal lands will give broader recognition of the modern day role of Native Americans in natural systems.



NSF is sponsoring work led by Thomas Dick of Mathematics on a studio fellowship program that is a model for mentoring new and master teachers. In the model, resident school teachers and administrators observe while a peer conducts a lesson with actual students, with a coach at the teachers side. Facilitated discussions are included, encouraging and nurturing substantive professional discourse about math and student learning in a real classroom context.


 Understanding Aging Holistically

Karen Hooker and Carolyn Aldwin of HHS/HDFS, with Tory Hagen (LPI)  and Ronald Metoyer (EECS), are leading  an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeshipeffort  “Linking Individuals, Families and Environments in an Aging Society.”  It involves scientists who study aging across disciplines, from cellular to societal perspectives, collaborate to understand aging holistically, with over 40 well-established faculty of the Center for Healthy Aging Research. It will have broad impact for advancing discovering of ways for older adults to maintain independence throughout life, while preparing a new generation of scientists to perform such transformative research, and establishing research networks among faculty and industry to benefit both academic and corporate worlds. It also creates opportunities for training of scientists from underrepresented groups and infuses attention to diversity and international concerns throughout all aspects.


NSF funding for OSU



NSF Directorate

Award Total (FY10)

Award Total (FY11)

Award Total (FY12)




Mathematical and Physical Sciences




Computer and Information Science and Engineering


Biological Sciences


Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences


Education and Human Resources


Office of Polar Programs


Office of International Science & Engineering


Intergovernmental Personnel Act Agreements






link to pdf of print material NSF Makes an Impact

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