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UC San Diego Faculty Members Win Department of Defense MURI Awards

March 6, 2020 | By Cynthia Dillon

Francesco PaesaniProfessor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and MURI Awardee Francesco Paesani.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced recipients of its 2020 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI) Award. Two of the 26 award projects are led by UC San Diego faculty members.

Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Francesco Paesani was recognized for his project titled, “Unraveling the Mechanisms of Ice Nucleation and Anti-icing through an Integrated Multiscale Approach” and Assistant Professor Nicholas Boechler in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering was awarded for his project titled, “Triggering Outstanding Properties via Mechanical Adaptive Topologies (TOPMAT): Towards Dynamically Self-Amplifying Omniphoric Multiscale Metamaterials.”

For this year’s competitors, the Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 26 topic areas important to the DoD and the military services. From a merit-based review of the 365 proposals received, a panel of experts narrowed the proposals to a subset from which the 26 final awards were selected. 

“Congratulations to Francesco and Nicholas on these significant awards,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Sandra Brown.

The MURI awards are made in research topics specified by the participating defense agencies, with specified topics changing annually. Typically, awards are for a period of three years (funded incrementally or as options), with the possibility of two additional years. Funding ranges between half a million and nearly one million dollars per year, with the size of the award dependent upon the topic, technical goals and availability of appropriations.

MURI efforts involve teams of researchers investigating high priority topics and opportunities that intersect more than one traditional technical discipline. For many military problems this multidisciplinary approach serves to stimulate innovations, accelerate research progress and expedite transition of results into naval applications.

“Modern science and engineering problems often intersect more than one scientific discipline,” said Bindu Nair, DoD’s deputy director for basic research. “Research of these problems is particularly well suited to a multidisciplinary team effort, which accelerates research progress to enable more rapid R&D breakthroughs by cross-fertilization of ideas and can hasten the transition of basic research findings to practical applications.”

Each year, by way of announcement, the DoD explains its research needs. The resulting MURI topics are based on these. Project proposals may be submitted only by U.S. institutions of higher education (i.e., universities) with degree-granting programs in science or engineering, or by consortia of such institutions. Proposals from consortia of academic institutions may be warranted because research in the multidisciplinary topics may require forming teams with strengths in multiple science and engineering fields.

The DoD expects that MURI programs will promote application of defense research, principally for defense purposes but also for commercial purposes. The research topics described in the MURI announcement generally underpin dual-use defense technologies that are critical to national defense and that also have good potential for commercial application. Interactions with research and development organizations that transition research findings to application, particularly industrial organizations, DoD laboratories and other organizations that perform research and development for defense applications are encouraged.

For more information about the 2020 MURI Awards, visit the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s website.