BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo President Satish K.
Tripathi travelled to Albany Tuesday to present members of the New
York State Legislature and the governor's office with a proposal to
designate a state Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics at
The UB proposal asks for the establishment of a Center of
Excellence in the 2012-13 state budget. The proposal does not
include a request for funding, but university officials are hopeful
state funding would follow. With that potential funding, new lab
equipment would be purchased, additional faculty would be hired and
potentially a new facility would be constructed for the center.
The proposal, supported by the Western New York legislative
delegation, was well received by state officials.
An official designation of a New York State Center of Excellence
in Materials Informatics at UB would better position UB nationally
in efforts to recruit faculty and pursue federal funding
opportunities in this emerging and high-demand field.
"This is a tremendously exciting opportunity for UB -- one that
fully leverages our considerable research strengths in
materials-related fields, as well as our substantial supercomputing
and informatics infrastructure," Tripathi said. "This is the
perfect illustration of our successful 'strategic strengths'
paradigm in action -- high-impact faculty research and
collaboration at the intersection of key fields. It is exactly at
this crossroads that our faculty are working to develop innovative
solutions for the critical challenges facing our society
In the proposal to state officials, Tripathi explained there is
a shortage of advanced materials in the U.S. for new technologies
in energy, automotive, clean tech, medical and other industries.
The UB Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics will help
solve this problem, accelerating the discovery and
commercialization of innovative new materials, including synthetic
replacements for elements that are growing scarcer. This would
foster increased industry collaboration, giving Western New York
companies a competitive advantage and potentially creating
thousands of jobs.
A focus on advanced materials would position UB, Western New
York and New York State as leaders in a nationally important area
of research and development. Tripathi noted that the UB proposal is
aligned with state economic development strategies, including Gov.
Andrew Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council and $1 billion
investment in Buffalo. The center would accelerate the deployment
of advanced materials of strategic interest to New York State
The development of new advanced materials also would create
opportunities for regional manufacturers to repurpose existing
facilities -- in line with the state's Regional Economic
Development Council Smart Growth agenda.
Advanced materials are everywhere in our daily lives, from the
fibers in Kevlar vests to the indium alloys in flat-screen TVs. New
materials can help U.S. companies make lighter prosthetic limbs,
cars that use less fuel and longer-lasting batteries for medical
devices like pacemakers.
Currently, however, it can take 20 or more years for new
advanced materials to reach consumers -- far too long, researchers
The UB Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics would use
the latest robotics and data-intensive computing technology. The
center would change the way materials research is conducted,
speeding the discovery and deployment of advanced materials.
Specifically, the center would make it possible for researchers to
synthesize and test the properties of hundreds of materials at
once, as opposed to one at a time.
This would complement the growth of Buffalo's downtown medical
corridor, encouraging new research in biomedical engineering and
The center's techniques for discovering new materials would
mirror techniques that biologists have used to accelerate the
discovery of new drugs using high-throughput technologies,
computation and genomic research. The center would build databases
describing the properties of a wealth of new materials, including
materials predicted through advanced computing and analyzed through
The center's databases, a library of practical information,
could be mined by companies and entrepreneurs partnering with UB to
develop new products quickly and efficiently. Through university
innovation and industry collaboration, the center has substantial
potential for job creation and economic growth.
Alexander N. Cartwright, PhD, vice president for research and
economic development, said by building on UB's current research
strengths in materials informatics, "the proposed center will
provide a vehicle for translating our faculty's research into
industrial applications -- this will provide an avenue to further
build our relationships with Western New York and New York State
industries, and will attract to our region new industries that have
significant interest in materials."
He noted that UB is well-positioned to establish a Center of
Excellence in Materials Informatics:
* UB's existing research strengths and infrastructure align with
advanced materials research.
* Through seven years of strategic hiring, UB has built a core
group of more than 50 scientists focused on materials synthesis,
materials characterization and the integration of new materials in
* As a testament to the quality of these faculty members, many
have won the National Science Foundation's prestigious CAREER
* The New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and
Life Sciences at UB houses a world-class computing center.
Leveraging this resource will be critical to supporting the
intensive computation and data mining required by materials
* The university and its researchers have strong relationships
with industry and government partners, many of whom have strategic
interests in advanced materials.
Thomas Furlani, PhD, director of UB's Center for Computational
Research and interim associate vice president for information
technology, said UB is uniquely positioned to support the demanding
computational requirements of materials informatics research. "Our
Center for Computational Research, a high-performance
supercomputing facility, will be leveraged to accelerate the
discovery of new materials," he said.
Specifically, the work of UB materials researchers is focused
on, among other things, creating a compound for coating
energy-efficient smart windows; developing an affordable,
eco-friendly copper sulfide alloy for absorbing light in solar
panels; and developing a rainbow-colored polymer that could turn
cell phones into powerful imaging tools with applications ranging
from matching paint colors to detecting disease.
The center would position Western New York well to receive new
federal dollars through the White House's recently announced
Materials Genome Initiative, which asks federal departments to
invest in technologies that accelerate the discovery of advanced