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NSF MRSEC (NSF 21-625) Internal Competition Details

  1. NSF MRSEC (NSF 21-625) Internal Competition Details
    Deadline: Friday, January 7th, 2022
    Click here to apply!

Program Details

The Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) program provides sustained support for materials research and education of the highest quality while addressing fundamental problems in science and engineering. Each MRSEC addresses research of a scope and complexity requiring the scale, synergy, and multi-disciplinarity provided by a campus-based research center. The MRSECs support materials research infrastructure in the United States, promote active collaboration between universities and other sectors, including industry and international organizations, and contribute to the development of a national network of university-based centers in materials research, education, and facilities. A MRSEC may be located at a single institution, or may involve multiple institutions in partnership, and is composed of two to three Interdisciplinary Research Groups, IRGs, each addressing a fundamental materials science topic aligned with the Division of Materials Research, DMR.

Limit on Number of Proposals

Only one MRSEC preliminary proposal may be submitted by any one organization as the lead institution in this competition. An institution proposing research in several groups should submit a single MRSEC proposal with multiple Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs). A MRSEC proposal must contain a minimum of 2 IRGs and a maximum of 3 IRGs. The IRGs in a Center may be thematically related, or they may address different aspects of materials science typically supported by the Division of Materials Research (DMR) at NSF. A single Center at an organization allows efficient use of resources, including common infrastructure, and better coordination of educational and other activities of the Center. Institutions that were awarded a MRSEC in the FY 2020 competition as the lead institution are not eligible to submit a MRSEC proposal as a lead institution in this competition.

Internal Competition Information

  • The internal deadline for all requested information will be 11:59pm on Friday, January 7th, 2022. This is to ensure time for an equitable review process and adequate proposal preparation time for the selected IRGs.
  • It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to ensure that all project participants are considered eligible for this competition and that the internal application is competitive. Please ensure you havethoroughly reviewed the attached program solicitation prior to applying for internal competition, and that you are committed to participating in the full application to the sponsor if selected.
  • The intention of this internal competition is to identify the IRGs that will collaboratively prepare and submit the one allowable preliminary application to the NSF MRSEC program (due June 20th, 2022). This IRG down-selection process will be focused on the intellectual merit of the IRGs, rather than the specificities and broader impacts of the proposal itself. Applicants should identify synergies/collaboration with other known IRGs on campus in their application.

Required Internal Application Materials

IRG Investigator Information: PDF files only. The format for the final submission should be as follows:

  1. Name of the IRG and each faculty member participating in the IRG. Please note that the budget for each IRG is around $1.1M per year. This equates to 7-11 faculty participants per IRG assuming an annual project cost of $100K - $150K.
  2. Brief summary of the IRG and intellectual merit of the proposed activities (1 page Maximum)
  3. Faculty rank, Department, NSF-formatted biosketch, and role in the proposed IRG for every faculty member.


IRG Letter-of-Intent: PDF files only, with a 4 page maximum.

The IRG Letter-of-Intent must address all the criteria and questions below. Your responses to these questions are not meant to duplicate or demonstrate that you satisfy the requirements of the full MRSEC proposal, but are intended to help guide the formation of a successful and collaborative team. Please ensure your Letter-of-Intent includes:

  1. A succinct research summary. Please refer to the current program solicitation and available IRG information. This summary should be kept to 2 paragraphs or less, including figures. The review criteria for internal and external reviews will track the questions below – so please understand that if content is omitted the reviewers will notice.
  2. A summary of the scope of your research efforts. Please provide a one paragraph explanation of each ‘Yes’ answered from the questions below - up to 6 paragraphs total.
    1. Does the scope of your research require the participation of five or more faculty members, and how have the past successes of the members of your IRG team prepared you to collaborate on the proposed work?
    2. Does your research test theoretical predictions?
    3. Does your research develop novel computational methods or applications in materials science?
    4. Is the scope of your research predominantly theoretical, computational, experimental, or a combination of these? Please explain.
    5. Does your IRG research overlap with an existing MRSEC? (If unsure, please review active MRSECs.)
    6. Does your research align with NSF’s “Big Ideas” or DMR Strategic Directions? If so, please describe. Which ones? (Note: The 8 NSF DMR programs are listed on page 5 of the attached MRSEC Program Solicitation. For a detailed description of research supported by the 8 programs, click HERE.)
  3. The significance of the proposed IRG as it relates to established NSF Intellectual Merits - 1 paragraph total.
  4. A clear justification as to why this IRG isunique and the proposed work cannot otherwise be accomplished through another NSF/federally funded mechanism – 1 paragraph total.
  5. Identification of the missing pieces in your IRG (including expertise, people, preliminary results, equipment, and other missing resources) – 1 paragraph total.
    1. The MRSEC accepts applications every 2 years. If your IRG is not selected, or if it is selected but not funded, what other resources would you need to strengthen your collaboration and preliminary work over the next 2 years to be more competitive in the next submission.

Review Process

Applications will be reviewed by both internal and external committees with expertise in a evaluating the likelihood of the IRGs’ success. These committees will also ensure that a diversity of projects and disciplines are selected from different units on campus. Any internal review committee will be composed of representatives from relevant disciplines across campus. Applicants will be notified of the decisions in early to mid-February 2022 to allow sufficient time to prepare a preliminary proposal to the sponsor (June 20, 2022.)

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Last Updated: 12/7/21