UB to Receive State Designation and Start-up Funding to Establish a Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics

Release Date: March 27, 2012

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UB scientists are focused on materials synthesis, materials characterization and integration of new materials in real-world products.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Western New York legislative delegation informed University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi today that UB will receive a state designation for a Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, and will be awarded $200,000 in seed funding toward the establishment of the center.

The designation and funding for the center will be included in 2012-13 state budget.

UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics will use robotics and data-intensive computing technology to focus on discovery and commercialization of innovative new materials, including synthetic replacements for natural elements that are growing scarcer.

With the creation of the center, UB will be positioned nationally to hire additional faculty and pursue federal funding opportunities in this emerging and high-demand field. With the funding, UB will begin cultivating industrial partners and planning for the center's facilities.

The center will foster increased collaboration between the university and industry, giving Western New York companies a competitive advantage and potentially creating thousands of jobs.

"This outstanding development has come about thanks in large part to the advocacy of Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Senators George Maziarz and Mark Grisanti, with the support of the entire Western New York delegation," Tripathi said.

"Building on UB's notable strengths in computing, materials science and engineering, the Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics will establish UB as a renowned leader in the emerging, high-impact field of combinatorial materials science and engineering--a rapidly growing field that responds to a wide range of critical societal needs, from the depletion of natural resources to the growing need for new technologies in the energy, medicine, defense and other industries."

Schimminger, co-chair of the Joint Budget Conference Committee on Economic Development, said creation of a Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics will set the stage for UB to play a significant role in addressing the global crisis in the availability of rare earth elements.

"This new Center of Excellence will help put New York State at the forefront of restoring and growing the United States' competitive advantage in advanced manufacturing, as well as improve health and wellness through biomedical engineering applications, create sustainable energy solutions and enhance national security through high-tech military applications," Schimminger said. "To me, this was a no-brainer, and I am very pleased that the Assembly very quickly and solidly stepped up to the plate for UB."

Maziarz, chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said "there are so many practical applications for this new Center of Excellence that I know will not only attract businesses to the region, but will be of benefit to existing companies in Western New York already doing work in this field. The economic potential of this center is enormous and I was happy to lead the effort to get UB this designation."

Grisanti, who also helped lead the effort in the Senate for UB's designation, said: "When I first heard about this idea, I knew it was one that would have a lasting positive impact on our region. I was happy to push for this in the Senate and I look forward to working with UB to realize the tremendous potential of this center."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer has offered to help UB pursue federal funding opportunities for the new center, and he has urged the Obama administration's Office of Science and Technology to partner with UB in the development of synthetic substitutes for natural materials, like rare earth elements, that are critical to the growth of high-tech businesses and manufacturers.

The new UB center will 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.

The center's databases, a library of practical information, will 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, UB vice president for research and economic development, said UB is well-positioned to establish a Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics. He noted that:

* 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 real-world products.

* As a testament to the quality of these faculty members, many have won the National Science Foundation's prestigious CAREER award.

* 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 informatics.

* The university and its researchers have strong relationships with industry and government partners, many of whom have strategic interests in advanced materials.

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