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October 14, 2017



Virginia Tech will provide documents to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee involving Yiheng Percival Zhang, a former professor of biological systems engineering accused of conspiracy to defraud the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy. Panel Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas), right, has demanded "all documents and communications" since 2005 relating to Zhang's and associates' federal grants and "actions Virginia Tech has taken in response to the alleged criminal activity by its employees."

Arrested September 20, Zhang is accused of filing false time-and-effort reports in connection with an NSF Small Business Innovation Research grant, providing Virginia Tech less than its designated share of a Technology Transfer grant, and applying for another grant based on work already completed in China. 

Mark Owczarski, assistant vice president for university relations, said "Virginia Tech will fully assist law enforcement agencies investigating the case." He added, "Dr. Zhang is no longer an employee of Virginia Tech." The school "intends to be responsive to the request of the U.S. House Science, space, and Technology Committee and to provide the documents we have that were asked of us by the committee." In court papers Friday, Zhang and prosecutors agreed to a delay in a formal indictment. But Zhang's attorney, Scott Austin, said the step "should not be read to suggest there is a plea agreement or that Dr. Zhang has somehow abandoned his vigorous defense of the allegations." His client "is a well respected scientist who continues to maintain he did nothing improper."

'WE SUBSIDIZE a lot of different energy sources. We subsidize wind energy. We subsidize ethanol. We subsidize solar. We subsidize oil and gas ... and so the question is how do you make it as fair as you can?" - Energy Secretary Rick Perry, responding to questions before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. In his prepared remarks​, Perry said that "over the past 40 years, there have been two bright spots that have continued to drive American energy innovation: DOE-funded R&D, including work at the Department’s national laboratories, and the dedicated workforce in each of the Department’s program offices."

UNIVERSITIES' STAKE IN HOUSE-SENATE DEFENSE NEGOTIATIONS: House leaders named 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats to a conference committee to resolve House-Senate differences over the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. University representatives are pressing conferees to support Senate positions on the National Defense Education Program, manufacturing engineering education, DOD-supported Manufacturing USA Institutes and their partnership with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and expedited Pentagon access to university technical expertise. They align with the House when it comes to continued support for defense medical research and establishment of a Hacking for Defense Program, intended to "educate and build a network of innovators and entrepreneurs equipped with expertise and resources to successfully develop, commercialize and apply DOD technology to address real world challenges." 


COOPERATIVE RELATIONSHIPS for Research and Development (CRADAs) at the Department of Commerce reached a five-year high of 2,994 in 2016. Of these, 389 were traditional CRADAs, involving collaborative research and development projects by a federal laboratory and non-federal partners in such fields as public safety and broadband. See the report

MIDSCALE RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE: The National Science Foundation wants to learn about "existing and future needs for mid-scale research infrastructure projects from the US-based NSF science and engineering community." This category would fall somewhere between "the maximum award funded by NSF's Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI; $4 million) and that of a major multi-user research facility project ($100 million or more)." See the Request for Information.  The American Institute of Physics reports: "NSF says that many scientific discoveries could be enabled by mid-scale RI, but such projects often fall in a gap between the eligibility thresholds of the foundation-wide programs that are dedicated to funding RI." Currently, NSF funds mid-scale projects through the budgets of its six research directorates.

NIH GRANT POLICY UPDATE: See a Summary of Significant Changes to the National Institutes of Health Grant Policy Statement. 

BRAINSTORMS: NIH is looking for "new theories, computational models, and statistical tools to derive understanding of brain function from complex neuroscience data.  Proposed tools could include the creation of new theories, ideas, and conceptual frameworks to organize/unify data and infer general principles of brain function; new computational models to develop testable hypotheses and design/drive experiments; and new mathematical and statistical methods to support or refute a stated hypothesis about brain function, and/or assist in detecting dynamical features and patterns in complex brain data." While the NIH BRAIN initiative anticipates providing $6M per year to fund up to 15 awards each year, the number of awards "is contingent upon NIH appropriations and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious applications." Find out more. See as well NSF's Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience program, extended for three years. Learn more.

SOLAR CHALET: A Swiss team drawn from - École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg - won the architecture and water contests at the 2017 Solar Decathlon sponsored by the Department of Energy. The team's design "provides a rethinking of solar in architecture: PV (photovoltaics), windows and solar thermal are all integrated into one wall design," DOE said. It also offered "the most comprehensive and integrated management of water," with very low consumption, green roof, and expert integration of storm water." See the runners up.


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GAINS CITED IN REFORMING STEM: Institutions funded as part of the Association of American Universities' Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative reported "trends toward improved learning gains, decreased failure rates, improved persistence from introductory to later courses, and narrowing achievement gaps especially for women, under-represented minorities, and first-generation college students." Seed funding went to Brown University; Michigan State University; the University of Arizona; University of California, Davis; University of Colorado Boulder; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Pennsylvania; and Washington University in St. Louis. Read the five-year progress report.

'IDEOLOGY OVER SCIENCE': That's been Congress's approach to addressing gun violence, says AAU President Mary Sue Coleman. "The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, effectively bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from funding gun violence research, under the guise that such research advocates for 'gun control.'" AAU is urging lawmakers "to lift the prohibition so our nation’s best and brightest can work toward effective gun violence and gun safety intervention."

IRMA AND MARIA "have . . . disrupted the education of tens of thousands of students and hampered undergraduate- and graduate-level research training programs," according to an article in Science. "For decades, these training programs have been responsible for developing the next generation of Caribbean scientists, a group that contributes to diversifying and strengthening the U.S. and global scientific workforce."

The BIRDS Satellite Project, a cross-border interdisciplinary cubesat initiative involving Japan's Kyushu Institute of Technology and developing nations that lack their own space programs, has won the 2017 Diversity Award sponsored by the Global Engineering Deans Council and Airbus. The Schulich School of Engineering: Discover Engineering Programme at Canada's University of Calgary and the Women in Engineering (WIE) Programme at the University of New South Wales in Australia were runners up.


ARE THEY MAKING IT? An Academies workshop addressed the role of Manufacturing USA institutes "in increasing advanced manufacturing in the United States, examined selected foreign programs designed to support advanced manufacturing, and reviewed recent assessments of existing institutes. A new report  summarizes the presentations and discussions. 

See also: Protecting the Health and Well-Being of Communities in a Changing Climate.



ASEE is offering two two-week courses in the spring of 2018 for researchers and innovators who want to take their STEM education vision to the next level. The application period opens October 25.  For more information click here.

EXTENSION FOR ABSTRACT SUBMISSION: The abstract submission phase for the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition in Salt Lake City, Utah is open!  The deadline has been extended until October 18th! Click here to submit.

GOFLY COMPETITION: In partnership with Boeing, ASEE is calling on the world’s greatest thinkers, designers, engineers, and builders to challenge themselves and change the future. Registration for the competition is now open and all details are available here

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

THE ACCELERATOR RETURNS: Beginning this month, ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students will resume publication with a wide array of resources:  scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to sign up. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

2018 SYMPOSIUM: ABET is accepting abstracts for four focus areas: Accreditation; Program Assessment; Sustainability; and Diversity & Inclusion. Programs of all sizes and housed in all types of higher education institutions (liberal arts colleges, community colleges, research institutions) inside or outside the U.S. are strongly encouraged to submit proposals to one or multiple focus areas. Learn more.


The Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) provides an opportunity for college students to participate in research at a Department of Navy laboratory during the summer. The online application process closes on October 31, 2017. Learn more here.

NOMINATE A YOUNG SUPERSTAR: Prism magazine plans a repeat of its widely read "20 Under 40" issue, highlighting especially talented engineering and engineering technology teachers and researchers. Please send your nominations and a brief description of the nominees' achievements to m.matthews@asee.org with "20 under 40" in the message line. Note: Choices will be based on both accomplishments and variety.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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