Dr. Biswajit Ray and students working in a lab

Dr. Biswajit Ray (second from left) is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who is studying how to make future computer solid state drives more resilient, durable and energy-efficient under a $650,000 NSF CAREER grant. He’s shown here in his lab with doctoral students (from left) Matchima Buddhanoy, Umeshwarnath Surendranathan and Horace Wilson.

Michael Mercier / UAH

The number of coveted National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awards won by University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) faculty in the past three years puts UAH among an elite group of very high research universities nationally.

According to its Office for Proposal Development (OPD), from 2019 to 2021 seven CAREER awards were won by faculty at UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System.

Among doctoral-granting universities ranked “R1 – Very high research activity” status by the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education, UAH’s CAREER awards in the last three years were equal to or greater than those achieved by many leading R1 research institutions, including the California Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, Emory University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Miami University, Tufts University, Vanderbilt University and Yale University.

“UAH is producing advanced research and leadership in research that ranks among our nation’s best,” says Dr. Chuck Karr, interim UAH president.

“The CAREER award shows one primary indicator of the university’s research density, and there are many more talented and dedicated researchers who are successful in other NSF awards and in securing funding from many sources, including state, local, federal and foundations,” Dr. Karr says. “Recruiting and developing talented faculty members who can receive such outstanding recognition is critical to our continued success as a major research university.”

CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

“There is no doubt that one of the most prestigious awards a junior faculty member can receive is the NSF CAREER,” says Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young, OPD director. “If received, the grant's five years of funding serves as a foundation for a young professor's research career. An individual only has three opportunities to apply before becoming ineligible.”

At UAH, CAREER awards have gone to six different departments: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Chemical & Materials Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Space Science and Biological Sciences.

“For the principal investigator (PI), a CAREER win usually establishes a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research,” Dr. Young says.

OPD worked with five of the seven UAH CAREER winners over the past three years, and the office performs numerous functions in support of all UAH researchers.

“We can help them find funding opportunities, locate appropriate partners to increase chances of success, provide templates for supplementary documents when available and organize and review their work such that the proposal presentation increases their chance of winning,” says Dr. Young.

Each Tuesday, OPD creates and sends a Weekly Funding Bulletin that outlines in detail research opportunities that can be searched by keywords, funding organization, college or research center specific interests. It also includes notifications about webinars, research training, conferences and more.

OPD helps researchers perform tailored searches for funding opportunities, or if they have a solicitation in hand, the office can make sure all requirements are met and ensure a timely submission.

“A major aspect to our approach is to think in terms of the agencies’ reviewers, using our experience to help the proposer understand the best way to present their research projects,” Dr. Young says. “For instance, when we work on CAREER projects, we try to orient the PIs with respect to the expectations of both NSF as an agency and CAREER as a specific NSF program.”

A UAH research advantage is the opportunity to work across many disciplines with agencies and industry that reside in Huntsville and that allows researchers to see firsthand the results of their work in systems and technologies that benefit Alabama and the nation, Dr. Young says.

“UAH’s location in the second largest research park in the United States puts it nearby for almost 80 federal agencies at Redstone Arsenal and over 300 high-tech industry partners at Cummings Research Park,” she says. “UAH researchers provide key contributions to our nation’s basic, applied and advanced research needs.”



Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young

Jim Steele