National Science Foundation Awards $109,000 to NEIU

Dayani Pieri, Staff Writer

Kenneth Nicholson, Emina Stojkovic, and Stefan Tsonchev
photo by Dayani Pieri


The Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $109,661 to NEIU Professor Kenneth Nicholson (Principal Investigator) and his colleagues Emina Stojkovic, and Stefan Tsonchev (Co-Principal Investigators) for their untiring efforts in writing and submitting a winning multidisciplinary proposal . The NSF award is extremely competitive, with only 10-15% selected for funding. According to Nicholson, the strength of this proposal for multidisciplinary research was the university’s “commitment to the sciences,” and the “quality and diversity of our student body,” contributed to the success of this proposal.

NEIU already houses a scanning probe microscope with electromagnetic capabilities. This instrumentation provides the ability to measure surface properties and topography on an atomic scale. The award will enable the purchase of an atomic force microscope extending the capabilities of the existent scanning probe microscope. The atomic force microscope will help characterize biological samples in their native environments. According to Nicholson, it will help “study the structure, strength, and behavior of materials at a nanometer (one billionth of a meter) scale.” Thus the study of chemical, physical, and biological responses of materials at a molecular level will be possible on the NEIU campus. The new equipment will enable NEIU students to attempt a plethora of new exciting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science.

The larger scope of this proposal includes the enhancement of research training and education at all levels on this state-of-the-art instrumentation. Both graduate students and undergraduate students will be able to receive multidisciplinary research training in the field of nanoscience through interdepartmental courses as well as conduct independent research projects under the mentorship of a faculty member. The current study interests focus on the interactions of light with biological materials. According to the proposal, research projects in the areas of bacteriophytochrome (BPHS) structures in aqueous media, fruiting body formations in myxobacteria initiated by BPHS in particular species, and bio-sensing capabilities of BPHS as thin films, among others, will be studied through the use of this instrumentation.

The faculty earnestly believes that the experience gained from using this cutting-edge technology will offer students a competitive edge over other students in the realm of science jobs and graduate program admissions. This will also attract students to the NEIU campus with similar research interests to enroll in the science programs. The students who are majoring in the sciences and are interested in research opportunities should inquire about possible research projects that will be conducted on campus in the near future. NEIU extends a heartfelt thanks to the award-winning professors, Nicholson, Stojkovic and Tsonchev, for creating these opportunities for our faculty and students.