NSF: Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC)

The Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) program provides sustained support of interdisciplinary materials research and education of the highest quality while addressing fundamental problems in science and engineering. Each MRSEC addresses research of a scope and complexity requiring the scale, synergy, and multidisciplinarity provided by a campus-based research center. The MRSECs support materials research infrastructure in the United States, promote active collaboration between universities and other sectors, including industry and international organizations, and contribute to the development of a national network of university-based centers in materials research, education, and facilities. A MRSEC may be located at a single institution, or may involve multiple institutions in partnership, and is composed of up to three Interdisciplinary Research Groups, IRGs, 1 each addressing a fundamental materials science topic aligned with the Division of Materials Research, DMR.

In addition to the National Science Board merit review criteria, MRSEC proposals have additional review criteria. Given competing proposals of essentially equal merit, NSF staff will be responsible for ensuring that the overall program reflects an appropriate balance among research topics and among centers of differing size and complexity. Preliminary proposals will be evaluated in terms of their potential to meet the criteria for full proposals.

MRSEC proposals will be evaluated in terms of the IRGs and of the Center as a whole. Please see additional MRSEC specific review criteria in program solicitation.

Number of Applications
Amount of Funding

Individual MRSEC awards are expected to range in size from approximately $2.6 million/year for a 2-IRG MRSEC to a maximum of $4 million/year for a 3-IRG MRSEC. Awards will be made for an initial duration of up to six years, but the level of funding is contingent on successful progress and upon the outcome of external review.

The anticipated effective date of new MRSEC awards is September 1, 2020.


Applicants should consult with their Associate Deans for Research prior to internal submission to assure they meet eligibility criteria and to obtain prior approval.

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

Only one MRSEC preliminary proposal may be submitted by any one organization as the lead institution in this competition. An institution proposing research in several groups should submit a single MRSEC proposal with multiple Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs). A MRSEC proposal must contain a minimum of 2 IRGs and a maximum of 3 IRGs. The IRGs in a center may be thematically related, or they may address different aspects of materials science typically supported by DMR. A single center at an organization allows efficient usage of resources, including common infrastructure, and better coordination of education and other activities of the center.

Institutions that were awarded a MRSEC in the FY 2017 competition as the lead institution are not eligible to submit a MRSEC proposal as a lead institution in this competition.

MRSEC full proposals may be submitted by invitation only.

In order to reduce the burden of proposal writing for the materials research community and the burden of subsequent proposal review and evaluation for reviewers and NSF staff, NSF will accept full proposals for MRSECs by invitation only, based on the results of the preliminary proposal evaluation.

Preliminary proposals will be reviewed by topical panels; ad-hoc mail review will be utilized for the review of the invited Full proposals. A panel of experts will be in attendance at the Reverse Site Visit Panels that will be held starting in late February or early March 2020 at NSF.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: 1

An individual may be the Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI for only one preliminary proposal, i.e., no investigator, PI or co-PI, can be listed on the NSF proposal Cover Sheet on more than one proposal.

US IHEs with broad research and education programs in the area of condensed matter physics, solid state and materials chemistry, materials science and engineering, and related areas of science and engineering may submit preliminary proposals.

While more than one organization may participate in a single proposal or preliminary proposal, one organization must accept overall management responsibility for the proposal. A single organization may not be the lead organization in more than one preliminary proposal. An individual may be the Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI for only one preliminary proposal. No investigator, PI or co-PI, can be listed on the NSF proposal Cover Sheet on more than one proposal.

Separately submitted collaborative proposals are not allowed.

Submission Process

Step 1

Internal deadline for LOI submission is no later than 5:00 p.m. on April 15, 2019. Materials should be submitted to Stephanie Endy at stephanie.endy@case.edu. LOI submissions should include the following in a single PDF file:

  1. One page cover letter including the name of the lead PI, title of the proposal, and a list of all collaborating faculty and their institutions
  2. NSF style biosketch for lead PI only
  3. A two page description of the MRSEC including the following components:
    • (a) a rationale for establishing the center and the anticipated synergies encompassing a center;
    • (b) a brief description of the proposed interdisciplinary research groups, including their intellectual merit; and
    • (c) a statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activities such as research, education/outreach, shared facilities, and collaborations. Limit: 1 page.
    • Introduction. State rationale and the vision of the MRSEC. In separate paragraphs identify the research, education, and diversity goals of the MRSEC. Limit: 1 page.
Step 2

Final nominees will be notified of their selection by April 26, 2019.

Step 3

Final proposal must be received by the Office of Research Administration by June 17, 2019 at 5:00pm EST.

Step 4

Final proposal must be received by the sponsor by June 24, 2019 at 5:00pm EST.


Abstract or LOI to ORA Chosen Proposal Announced ORA Final Proposal Due Date Sponsor Submission Deadline Days Until Due
04/15/2019 04/26/2019 06/17/2019 06/24/2019 CLOSED