The National Science Foundation has awarded UCSB two new Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grants, bringing UCSB’s total to four – more than any other university in the United States.

The grants are collectively worth $6 million.

NSF awarded a total of 18 grants, which are designed to promote interdisciplinary research and graduate training. Bangalore Manjunath, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Linda Petzold, professor of mechanical and environmental engineering, are the recipients of these new grants. They join David Pine, professor and chair of chemical engineering, and Christopher Costello, assistant professor in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, as UCSB’s IGERT recipients.

Manjunath is working on interactive digital multimedia, specifically in three research areas: multimedia systems, multimedia content and interactivity, converging the wide range of applications of digital multimedia. Departments participating in this project include, but are not limited to, computer science, art studio, psychology, geography, education, film studies, environmental science and music. Manjunath’s main goal, however, is to train Ph.D. students.

Petzold is introducing a unique Ph.D. program of interdisciplinary research and education in computational science and engineering. He plans to focus on microscale engineering, complex fluids and computational materials science. These areas of study cover a wide range of important and timely problems that depend on integration of information on multiple scales.

Pine has been focusing his grant, awarded in 2000, on researching optical materials and training students in the emerging fields of optical materials technology and engineering. Costello has been using his grant, awarded in 2001, for a graduate training program that integrates environmental science and economics, and produces economics students who have Ph.D.-level knowledge in natural sciences.

The IGERT grants are each around $3 million and are distributed over a period of five years, although the granting period can be extended.

“This is a fairly significant amount of money,” Manjunath said. “It’s kind of exciting.”

There has not been enough time to examine the effects of the new grant, but Manjunath expects a marked increase in the number of graduate students coming to work on his project.

Petzold was not available for comment.

The only other university with four grants is the University of Michigan. UCSB, however, is involved in a UC systemwide IGERT grant to study nuclear threats and public policy, meaning UCSB actually has more than four grants.

“[The grants are a] great honor to this campus. This is another reaffirmation of our outstanding faculty and interdisciplinary research,” Professor Charles Li, dean of UCSB’s Graduate Division, said.

The competition for IGERT grants is extremely competitive, with UCLA and Berkeley receiving one apiece, and Harvard receiving two.

When it comes to research universities, Li said UCSB “is up there now; there is no question about that.”