Research Communications

Physicists receive $3.3 million for international nanoscience research 

National Science Foundation grants support student travel, science collaborations

September 17, 2007

ATHENS, Ohio – Ohio University physicists have received a total of $3.3 million for international collaborative research, in two separate grants from the National Science Foundation.

The first of the two grants will initiate a new collaboration with scientists in Germany and Argentina. The $2.5 million, five-year grant, awarded by the NSF’s Partnerships for International Research and Education program (PIRE), will allow Ohio University researchers Arthur Smith, Saw-Wai Hla, Nancy Sandler and Sergio Ulloa to continue studies on understanding electron spin at the nanoscale. Controlling the electron spin may allow scientists to develop smaller, faster and more powerful technologies and devices in the future.

The new grant will support a 10-week travel abroad program for Ohio University undergraduate and graduate students, as well as post-doctoral fellows, at the University of Hamburg and the Universidad de Buenos Aires.


Nancy Sandler, Saw-Wai Hla, Arthur Smith, Sergio Ulloa.
Photo credit: Rick Fatica

“The international collaboration will expose our students to international nanoscience research environments. We selected these two foreign partners because of their expertise in the areas we’re working in – nanomagnetism and nanospintronics,” said Smith, the project director on the grant and director of Ohio University’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute.

The university launched NQPI in 2001 to unite faculty members from seven departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and Russ College of Engineering and Technology engaged in research in the emerging field of nanoscience. NQPI members attracted $13.7 million in external funding during the institute’s first six years, from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“As the institute moves into its seventh year, we can say that the collaboration between members of different departments has increased a lot. That’s a good sign,” Smith said.

The Ohio University researchers have received attention for their discoveries in spintronics and for their use of cutting edge equipment, such as the scanning tunneling microscope, to manipulate individual atoms. Working with international experts on these topics at Hamburg and Buenos Aires will take the Ohio University research to the next level, Smith said. Ohio University will host a 2008 international conference on nanoscale spectroscopy and spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy in Athens. Previous venues included Trieste, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Hamburg.

A second NSF grant also will bolster the institute’s international research partnerships, Smith reported. Sandler, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, is the lead investigator on a new grant from the NSF’s Materials World Network program. Ohio University will receive $800,000 in funding for collaborative nanoscience work with the University of Florida, Oakland University and six institutions in Brazil and Chile. Ulloa, professor of physics and astronomy, is co-investigator on the grant. The researchers will explore electron behavior in different materials, such as semiconductor and metallic surfaces, carbon nanotubes, graphene and quantum dots that have potential technological applications.

Contact: Arthur Smith, (740) 597-2567,; Nancy Sandler, (740) 593-9434,; Director of Research Communications Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,