New Frontier Grants
The College of Arts & Sciences is committed to fostering curiosity-driven, highly innovative research across all areas of scholarship within its purview. By expanding the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, fundamental research enables advances in a wide variety of fields; pioneering innovations based on discovery fuel breakthroughs, promoting the wellbeing of individuals and societies.
The New Frontier Grants program aims to enable the early stages of a select number of novel, high-risk/high-impact research projects with compelling visions and strategies for transformative advances in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
Often discovery results from talented researchers venturing into uncharted territory or from unexpected collaborations across disciplinary boundaries.
-Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences
These grants are made possible thanks to philanthropic support, including from James F. Adelson '85 and Susannah Adelson; Miriam Shearing ’56; Carolyn Wiener ’69 and Malcolm Wiener; Scott Fowkes ’85 and family; and Jesse Ho ’88 and Eliza Lau ’88.
2022 New Frontier Grants
- “Imaging Heat Flow in Quantum Materials”: Katja Nowack, assistant professor of physics, and Brad Ramshaw, the Dick & Dale Reis Johnson Assistant Professor of physics, will develop a new thermal microscope to image quantum states of matter that are invisible in conventional experiments. This collaboration uses superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDS), which have exquisite magnetic sensitivity, to carefully measure magnetic signatures of intrinsic noise; from the magnitude of the noise, the particles’ temperature can be determined.
- “Understanding and Creating New Quantum Materials with Light on Ultrafast Timescales”: Jared Maxson, the Joyce A. Yelencsics Rosevear ’65 and Frederick M. Rosevear ’64 Assistant Professor of physics and Kyle Shen, the James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences, will address one of the primary challenges in understanding quantum materials – their ultrafast characteristic timescales – by using technologies developed for particle accelerators to make femtosecond-scale “movies’ of electronic and atomic motion, and, using the same approach, to even create entirely new quantum materials with light. Funding from the New Frontier program will allow Shen and Maxson to bring together two of Cornell’s major strengths in usually disparate fields, accelerator physics and quantum materials. If successful, this project could serve as the nucleus for larger, campus-wide efforts in ultrafast science.
- “Lithium Seawater Extraction with Hybrid Molecular Receptor-Material Adsorbents”: In a project focused on sustainable technology, Justin Wilson, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, will develop techniques for extracting the mineral lithium – a critical component of batteries, wind turbines, smart phones and many other applications – from seawater. A collaboration with Maha Haji, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering.
- “Prefrontal Cortical Control of Memory Retrieval”: David Smith and Thomas Cleland, professors of psychology, and Katherine Tschida, the Mary Armstrong Meduski ’80 Assistant Professor of psychology, will explore brain mechanisms of memory retrieval by using memory manipulation as a tool to answer a fundamental question: How does memory retrieval work and why does it sometimes fail? The research on memory manipulation will likely be useful in future treatments of Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, and simply improving everyday memory performance.
- “Emergence of Dialects in Networks of Speakers with Random, Constrained Interactions”: Samuel Tilsen, associate professor of linguistics, and James Sethna, the James Gilbert White Professor of Physical Sciences, will use a hybrid computational and experimental strategy to study dialect emergence, aiming to experimentally probe core questions of sociolinguistic theory, such as How inevitable are dialects? And how long do they persist? In addition to an increase in theoretical understanding, the results will inform machine learning systems that use linguistic signals to monitor social group dynamics or individuals’ health.
- "CD8+ T Cells with Innate Properties: Determining Their Prevalence, Mechanistic Basics, and Therapeutic Potential”: Andrew Grimson, associate professor of molecular biology and genetics, in a collaboration with Brian Rudd, associate professor of immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, will study the novel aspects of mouse and human CD8+ T cells, which are a major component of the adaptive immune system. This project will focus on an unexpected and understudied aspect of CD8+ T cells: their ability to moonlight as innate immune cells. Better understanding of these powerful immune cells may ultimately help engineer human T-cells, a cutting-edge tool in cancer therapy.
- “Reinventing Sentience: Panpsychism”: Karolina Hübner, associate professor of philosophy and Himan Brown Continuity Fellow for the Jewish Studies Program, will explore panpsychism – the theory of widespread, even generalized sentience – bringing together thought from philosophy, psychology, biology, neuroscience and AI research to examine the possibilities, defensibility, and repercussions of widespread sentience, and to establish Cornell as a place where groundbreaking intellectual research on mind takes place.
2021 New Frontier Grants
- “The Underground Railroad Research Project (URRP)”: Gerard Aching, professor of Africana and Romance studies, and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, associate professor of Literatures in English, will collaborate with scholars in earth sciences, archaeology, history and the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanities to research and document the story of Ithaca’s Underground Railroad station, the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
- “Capture and Chemical Derivatization of Carbon Dioxide Using 1,3-Dipolar Cycloadditions”: Tristan Lambert, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, will develop novel chemistry for the capture and reuse of carbon dioxide – leading to tremendous opportunities to address climate change.
- “The Rise of the Rural-Urban Political Divide and Its Impact on American Democracy”: Suzanne Mettler, the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in government, will investigate why a rural-urban political divide has emerged in America in the past quarter century; how this divide is influencing political polarization and democracy; and how its harmful effects might be mitigated.
- “Quantum-classical hybrid approach to quantum simulators”: Eun-Ah Kim, professor of physics, will use machine learning (ML) tools to solve problems in quantum computing related to qubits, which store an exponentially larger amount of information securely than classical bits but whose quantum foundation makes them difficult to characterize.
- "Poetry, AI and the Mind: A Humanities-Cognitive Science Transdisciplinary Exploration”: Morten Christiansen, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology, and Laurent Dubreuil, professor of Romance studies and comparative literature, will conduct empirical research on poetry, connecting the humanities, AI and cognitive science, from the perspective of a broader discussion about mental and cultural diversity.
- "Developing AI Tools for Discovery in Large Scale Astronomy Programs”: James Cordes, the George Feldstein Professor of Astronomy, will develop AI tools for “multimessenger” astronomy, the coupling of gravitational wave tracers with traditional telescope data, to enable discovery of pairs of orbiting black holes with masses a billion times the sun’s, in order to understand the formation and evolution of supermassive black holes.
- “Machine Learning Guided Dissection and Correction of Neural Circuit Abnormalities in Parkinson’s Disease”: Jesse Goldberg, associate professor of neurobiology and behavior and Robert R. Capranica Fellow, will combine AI and dense brain recordings in order to provide the first-ever picture of how pathogenic neural signals emerge, recede and re-emerge in treated and untreated Parkinson’s.
- “AI in Politics”: Sarah Kreps, the John L. Wetherill Professor of government, will investigate the possible uses and misuses in politics of powerful natural language models, which are produced by machine learning to generate content that can mimic text written by humans.
- “Autonomous Quantum Subsystem Error Correction”: Erich Mueller, professor of physics and director of the Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, will simplify quantum computer architectures by developing a new strategy to correct for quantum processor errors caused by environmental noise.
- “Controlling Quantum-Mechanical Coherence in Modular Framework Materials”: Andrew J. Musser and Phillip J. Milner, assistant professors of chemistry and chemical biology, will work toward building next-generation materials for solar energy harvesting and quantum information science.
- “Cornell ReSounds: The Design and Performance CoLab for New Acoustic Instruments”: Pianist Xak Bjerken and composer Elizabeth Ogonek will create a network of artists and technologists to reimagine the conditions for creating and performing acoustic music. Instrumental design and site-specific performances will result in a new repertoire, documented on video.
- “Curing Cancer by Targeting Genotypic Differences Using CRISPR tools”: Ailong Ke, professor of molecular biology and genetics, will use CRISPR tools to develop personalized medicine for cancer patients by distinguishing sequence differences in the genome and transcriptome of cancer and normal cells.
- “High-Throughput Experimentation Meets ReMOTEs: Wireless Electrochemical Synthesis”: Song Lin, the Howard Milstein Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology and Paul McEuen, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science, will develop a new generation high-throughput experimentation reactor for electrochemical screening experiments.
- “Medieval Iberian Sound: A Digital Humanities Project”: Simone Pinet, professor of Spanish and Medieval Studies, will build a digital humanities archive of Iberian sound to serve as a research repository for approximations of soundscapes alluded to through literary texts from the 13th through the 15th centuries in the Iberian Peninsula; and to also serve as a frame of reference for the imagination of this archive in pedagogical setting.
Applications for the 2022 cycle are now open. Please review the request for proposals for details. The deadline for submission is March 7.
Tenure-stream A&S faculty members are eligible to apply. A proposal could be led by a single A&S faculty member, or by two or more A&S faculty members, if appropriate; a proposal could also include faculty from other colleges at Cornell or elsewhere as collaborators.
Proposals that are highly original, need preliminary data/analyses to demonstrate proof-of-concept, and/or involve new interdisciplinary collaborations are welcome. The program aims to enable early-stage projects for which the investigator(s) is (are) unlikely to receive funding from traditional external sources, but that can be reasonably expected to lead to external support if the initial phase is successful.
While all applications will be considered, in cases of equally meritorious proposals, preference will be given to projects for which other Cornell funding sources (e.g., Academic Integration fund, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell Center for Social Sciences) are not applicable.
Each proposal will be reviewed by two or more faculty invited by the Senior Associate Deans, with final selections made by the College leadership.
Terms of the New Frontier Grants
Each project will be supported for up to two years at a maximum annual level of $100,000, subject to review of the scope of work and submitted budget details.
Distribution of the second-year of support will be contingent upon submission of a first-year report of reasonable progress, no later than March 31, 2022. Reports should include an update on the identification of potential programs and sponsors for external support.
Funds can be used for the support of visiting collaborators, postdoctoral associates and/or graduate and undergraduate research assistants, including stipends, graduate tuition and health insurance; to acquire necessary materials and supplies; and/or to cover shared facility fees. Any proposed expenditure for capital equipment must be justified in the proposal and be essential to the success of the project.
Funds cannot be used towards faculty salary; however, for those faculty members on 2-2 teaching loads, one course release per year would be allowable (to be included in the proposed budget at a cost of $20,000).
Expenditures for travel cannot exceed $3,000 annually, except upon special request.
Any funds not expended at the end of the second year will be returned to the College.