NSF Director Announces $20M Award at Arctic Symposium 2024

In mid-April, U.S. National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan joined world leaders from more than 25 countries at the annual Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, where he delivered featured remarks during a showcasing plenary session. While in Alaska, he also met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and announced a new $20 million Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) award for a collaborative research project led by University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

"With the Arctic facing greater challenges than ever before, it is of the utmost importance that we work together to build resiliency and develop sustainable solutions that engage, advocate and empower the peoples and communities who live here," said Panchanathan.

The plenary session, titled "The Future of Scientific Research and Innovation in the Arctic," brought together leading voices from the worlds of academia, government and industry to discuss a variety of topics, including cutting-edge research happening in the Far North, emerging areas for future research collaborations, and effective strategies for speeding research-generated benefits at scale.

On the latter topic, the director exemplified the Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) program - a $160 million NSF investment - which he said embodies the principles of immediacy, integration and inclusion to further Arctic priorities and overcome grand challenges in the region.

"Through NNA, NSF continues to work closely with Arctic communities and Indigenous peoples to address their specific needs and identify ways that the research enterprise can better serve their communities," he said.

During the symposium, Panchanathan had the opportunity to hear from many leaders, including those from northern Indigenous groups, who shared their insights into the challenges and interests of the peoples and communities of the Far North. He also met with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, where he serves ex officio.

In Fairbanks, he announced a $20 million award for research collaboration between UAF, UAA and the University of Alaska Southeast. Funded through EPSCoR, the Interface of Change project will work to combat climate change, build research infrastructure, and enhance competitiveness and education across the state through strategic partnerships with diverse groups.

In Anchorage, he toured UAA's campus with university leaders, where he witnessed first-hand the cutting-edge science, engineering and innovation research happening across its centers and facilities.

At both UAF and UAA, he had the opportunity to meet Alaska Native faculty and students with the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). Supported by the NSF Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), ANSEP's successful program model engages an academic learning community of students, faculty, staff and partners aiming to provide excellent education and workforce opportunities for all Alaskans.

"Through programs like EPSCoR and LSMAP, NSF reaffirms its commitment to strengthening pathways into STEM and expanding its reach into communities in Alaska and across our nation," said Panchanathan. "Enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM is central to NSF's mission, and it is key to tackling complex challenges, like climate change, while harnessing our nation's full potential."

The director was inspired by many of the diverse people he met during his trip - policymakers, U.S. Army Corps Engineers, Indigenous leaders, STEM experts and industry heads from around the world. He was also inspired with hope by the innovative spirit of Alaskan students, researchers and early-career faculty, whose NSF-funded research impacts are helping to develop mitigation, adaptation and resilience solutions at local, regional and global scales.

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