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December 30, 2016



National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins tells CQ Roll Call he would like to remain under the Donald Trump administration. His immediate boss - subject to Senate confirmation - would be Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a fellow physician, whom Trump plans to nominate as secretary of health and human services. Collins says he has had no contact with the transition team. However, "four GOP Senate and House committee or subcommittee chairmen earlier this month urged Trump in a letter to keep Collins in his role in order to maintain continuity. The NIH will soon implement parts of the Cures Act and oversees initiatives on brain research and personalized medicine. As previously reported, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is interested in the NIH post.

SIGHTED AT MAR-A-LAGO: Elsa Murano (photo, left), a former undersecretary of agriculture for food safety (2001-4) and now one of several candidates to lead the Agriculture Department, was spotted at the president-elect's Palm Beach clubhouse Wednesday, according to Politico, which cited pool reports. CQ reported she would meet with Trump Thursday. A Cuban emigre who arrived in Miami at age 14 speaking no English, Murano went on to study at Miami Dade College, Florida International University, and Virginia Tech, where she earned a doctorate in food science and technology. Now a professor of nutrition and food science at Texas A&M, she directs the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, named for the Nobel Peace Prize winner known as the "father of the green revolution." Murano's brief tenure as TAMU's first female and first Hispanic president ended with her resignation after the university system released a "scathing review" of her performance, "giving her low marks for leadership and management" according to a New York Times report at the time. 


MANUFACTURING INSTITUTE HQ: The University of Delaware will serve as the headquarters of the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), sharing administrative duties with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIMBL, due to involve some 150 educational institutions, companies, state governments, and nonprofits, "is the first U.S. Department of Commerce-led institute to join the network and the first awarded under the 2014 bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation (RAMI) Act using an 'open topic' competition," according to the department. A university publication says the $70 million federal share is expected to be part of overall investment of $250 million. "The institute will focus on bringing safe drugs to market faster and on developing workforce training." This is the 11th manufacturing institute and the second announced in December. It follows the Department of Energy-sponsored Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute, led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

REGIONAL ENERGY 'ECOSYSTEMS': The Department of Energy plans to make four grants of up to $200,000 each to assess "the potential of an integrated strategy for a multi-state region to enhance and accelerate energy innovation via a regional energy innovation ecosystem (that could) promote affordable, reliable innovative energy technology; create jobs; increase entrepreneurial activity and new venture financing; and promote economic growth and prosperity." Learn more.

CYBER-PHYSICAL SYSTEMS GAPS: "Despite significant inroads into CPS technology in recent years, we do not yet have a mature science to support systems engineering of high-confidence CPS, and the consequences are profound," the National Science Foundation says. "For example, as the Internet of Things (IoT) scales to billions of connected devices -- with the capacity to sense, control, and otherwise interact with the human and physical world -- the requirements for dependability, security, safety, and privacy grow immensely. One barrier to progress is the lack of appropriate science and technology to conceptualize and design for the deep interdependencies among engineered systems and the natural world." To address these "significant and far-reaching," NSF will fund three levels of projects, with the top level getting up to $7 million for four to five years. Find out more

MODELING DISEASE OUTBREAKS: A report by the National Science and Technology Council on "the new interdisciplinary science of outbreak prediction" says computational tools are increasingly being used by public health responders to predict infectious disease outbreaks. It recommends: improving sharing of data and information to accelerate the development, validation, and application of computational outbreak models; integrating outbreak prediction into public health programs; and understanding the factors contributing to infectious disease emergence. Read the report.

$110 MILLION FOR 'SMALLSATS': A White House blog reports that the Air Force is committing $100 million over five years to: "demonstrate the ability to command and transfer critical data through commercial networks, safely and securely; devise and provide infrastructure to support a rapid payload prototyping approach for smallsat experimentation, with the objective of designing, building, and testing devices for use aboard small satellites in just weeks or months; and directly leverage flourishing 'New Space' capabilities by entering into a public-private partnership . . . to augment key mission areas with a combination of smallsats and rapidly procured payloads, to include early warning and positioning, navigation, and timing." In January, NASA will announce an opportunity " to establish public-private partnerships offering access to NASA expertise and facilities to support commercial space technology development."

Check out the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy, and Principles for Promoting Access to Federal Government-Supported Scientific Data and Research Findings through International Scientific Cooperation.


FAST TRACK TO CHAIR BUDGET PANEL: That may be where Rep. Diane Black is headed. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), "earlier seen as the leading candidate to become the next House Budget Committee chairman," is now "happy to support" the Tennessee Republican, his spokesman tells CQ, giving Black his virtual endorsement for the high-profile post. Black, who worked for decades as an emergency room and long-term-care nurse, has cited implementation of TennCare, a public insurance program that expanded coverage but nearly bankrupted the state, "as a cautionary tale for the implementation of the 2010 health care law," CQ reports. 

'FIRST ITEM' - DISMANTLE OBAMACARE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says that after Congress returns on Jan. 3 “the Obamacare repeal resolution will be the first item up in the new year,” according to CQ. The aim is for both chambers to adopt a fiscal 2017 budget resolution containing instructions that would allow parts of the Affordable Care Act to be dismantled by majority vote. "If everything goes according to plan," McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), would have committees working on the reconciliation bill before Donald Trump's inauguration.



State governments spent $2.2 billion on research and development in FY 2015, an increase of 16.9 percent from FY 2014, according to a National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics infobrief. Five states - California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Ohio - accounted for 61 percent of the total. 

In thousands

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF)


SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY AND OUR FUTURE: Would you rather have A. a plant-based hamburger substitute that “can run head-to-head against the best burger from a cow,” or B. gene-edited cattle with up to 30 percent more meat, that produce more milk, and thrive in hot climates? Those were among early examples presented during of a National Academies workshop that explored the opportunities and potentially worrisome implications of synthetic biology. Read the report.


INTRODUCING PRISM PODCASTS: This new feature, produced by Nathan Kahl, debuted with a report on the Mobile Virtual Player, developed by students at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. Listen to this and subsequent podcasts here.

ASEE Mid-Atlantic Spring Conference: Members are invited to submit papers and attend the event April 8-9, 2017, at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Full paper submission deadline is February 10, 2017.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.