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National Science Board Approves New NSF Science and Technology Center for Adaptive Optics

Arlington, Virginia – July 29, 1999:   The National Science Board (NSB) today approved five new National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Centers (STCs), including a Science and Technology Center for Adaptive Optics, agreeing to commit almost $94 million over five years in a range of important scientific and technological areas.

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  The new centers will embark upon five-year cooperative agreements with NSF. Program guidelines allow for financial commitments of up to $20 million each, but final awards are subject to negotiation between NSF and the lead institutions within these wide-ranging partnership activities. In addition, the in-kind contributions brought into the centers by partners can raise their total value well beyond the actual monetary awards.

"We are delighted to have this wide range of projects before us that hold so much promise for discovery, while creating such exciting educational components," Deborah Crawford, program manager in NSF's Office of Integrative Activities, said.

The STC for Adaptive Optics will develop new instruments optimized for adaptive optics: coronographs will be developed to study black holes in galaxies and planets around nearby stars;
Introduction to Adaptive Optics, Tyson
opthalomoscopes will be developed to make possible high resolution 3-D construction of retinal blood vessels and optic nerve fibers that carry signals to the brain. The Center's lead institution is the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The center will use facilities in major cities to bring adaptive optics research into K-12 after-school and summer science programs, expand graduate education opportunities for Native Americans and provide training for optical technicians.

Adaptive Optics is a method for removing blur caused by changing distortions within optical systems, and thus has tremendous implications in astronomical and vision sciences applications. For example, adaptive optics makes ground-based telescopes “see” as clearly as if they were in space, and has the potential for use in the diagnosis of retinal disease.

NSF established the Science and Technology Center program in 1987 to respond to a Presidential commitment to fund important fundamental research activities that also create educational opportunities. The program was also designed to encourage technology transfer and provide innovative approaches to interdisciplinary research challenges. These are the first new STC awards in eight years. From the first two competitions in 1989 and 1991, 23 STCs were still in operation before today's additions authorized by the NSB.

In 1997, the STC program was modified to emphasize the special contributions partnerships bring to the program. When today’s awards are added, more than 36 U.S. colleges and universities, along with government labs, and some international academic institutions, will participate.

The four other STCs approved today include a new center for water sustainability led by the University of Arizona, a center for nanobiotechnology led by Cornell University, a behavioral neuroscience center led by Emory University in Atlanta, and a new center for environmentally responsible solvents and processes led by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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