Two UC Santa Barbara graduate programs received multimillion dollar grants to fund research last week, a third was to made available to graduate students at all UCs.

Of the 18 new Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grants awarded Jan. 21 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), UCSB is receiving two – the most any university has received in a single round of funding. UCSB Ph.D. students will also have access to a third grant awarded to a UC-wide program based at UC San Diego. UCSB received two grants from the NSF in 2000, making a total of five IGERT grants available to UCSB graduate students.

“This growing level of support from external sources such as the NSF is an important recognition of our outstanding faculty and research colleagues and our students, and of the exceptionally high quality of their work,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said. “The IGERT grants will help us attract even more of the brightest graduate students.”

The IGERT grants – ranging from $2.7 to $2.9 million – will not only aid current graduate efforts on campus, but will also raise interest in undergraduates seeking a top notch school and in UCSB’s current undergraduates seeking experience and mentoring through the graduate department, Yang said.

“[These grants] help our case that our research is tops,” said Linda Petzold, a UCSB professor of mechanical and environmental engineering and one of the IGERT grant principal investigators.

The funds for each IGERT grant are spread out across five years, averaging around $500,000 a year. One of the goals of the IGERT grant is to bring graduate students and faculty from various disciplines together, opening new windows for UCSB’s graduate research. Recipient schools are asked to “undertake a cultural change in graduate education by establishing new models for training Ph.D. candidates in a highly collaborative research environment that allows broad experiences for students that transcend traditional academic and research boundaries,” the NSF said in a statement.

Graduate students will receive the money in the form of stipends. The stipends will help support students in new research projects in addition to the ones they may already be involved with, paying for their equipment, travel and for the resources needed to help form a “fellowship” among the involved grad students, Petzold said. Bangalore S. Manjunath, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is working with Petzold as this year’s principal investigators for the IGERT grants.

The two previous IGERT grants awarded in 2000, now in their third year, provide near equal amounts of funding to two graduate professors – David Pine, professor of chemical engineering, and Christopher Costello, assistant professor of environmental sciences at UCSB’s Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

“UCSB has been a leader for a dozen years now,” Pine said. “[These grants] reflect the fact that we have done such a good job with graduate multidisciplinary research.”

The fifth grant was awarded to the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, or IGCC – a UC research center for international affairs. UCSB History Professor Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is UCSB’s investigator on the project, which will use the NSF’s $2.9 million grant to fund a program to train UC Ph.D. candidates in public policy and the threat of nuclear war. The center will hold a UC-wide competition to choose an undisclosed number of NSF Public Policy and Nuclear Threat Fellows, who will spend up to six years studying the historical and current security implications of nuclear weapons, arms control, terrorism, missile defense, nonproliferation and completing internships at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories. They will also have to complete the requirements of their initial Ph.D. programs.

“The vision behind this proposal is to redress this gap by investing in the revival of the Ph.D. level study of nuclear threats and public policy across the UC system,” IGCC Research Director Susan Shirk said in a statement. “Because the UC manages the country’s two primary nuclear weapons laboratories, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos, opportunities for cross-fertilization are easier.”

Winning these grants was no easy task, Petzold said. Applicants had to come up with a pre-proposal to be reviewed by a panel. After passing the pre-proposal, a final proposal had to be submitted for a similar review.

“Receiving these two new NSF IGERT grants is a significant achievement,” Yang said. “I am extremely proud of all our colleagues who have played a part in it.”