Risk and reward: How AFOSR supported a young scientist at the University of Naples and impacted years of science, technology and diplomacy

4/25/2018 – ARLINGTON, Va. – The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), a directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), is responsible for the basic research investment for the Air Force. It is an endeavor laden with risk and reward; challenge and discovery; ideas and innovation, all in support of the warfighter. One approach AFOSR takes in shaping the future of the Air Force and pushing innovative technologies forward is to strategically invest in diverse areas of research that can lead to new spheres of science. Equally important to supporting advances in basic science, but often underappreciated, is the chrysalis of the strong relationships forged over decades of cooperation in pursuit of discovery.

Early Support for Professor Luigi Nicolais

“The project supported by AFOSR in 1977 has a remarkable meaning: a seed for science and knowledge generation in the field of Materials Science and Engineering on composite materials.”

-Prof. Luigi Nicolais

One such relationship began with an investment in 1977 by AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. John Halpin, who funded a young Italian materials scientist in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Naples. Professor Luigi Nicolais submitted a proposal that was accepted by AFOSR entitled, “Effect of Applied Stress, Thermal Environmental and Water in Epoxy Resins.” Nicolais was interested in composite materials and his team conducted a series of absorption experiments that included the study of the physicochemical behaviors of epoxy resins containing absorbed water. The results of Nicolais’s research were published in a paper entitled, “Environmental Aging of Epoxy Resins: Synergistic Effect of Sorbed Moisture, Temperature, and Applied Stress.”

AFOSR’s early support was significant to Nicolais’s research and led to extensive collaboration between the University of Naples and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Furthermore, these efforts substantially contributed to more intensive collaboration with Boeing, where Nicolais developed rheological and thermo-kinetic models from the cure of epoxy based composite laminates by using the heat transfer and heat generating characteristics of polymerizable systems. The results of this research were published in a paper entitled, “Dielectric characterization of water sorption in epoxy resin matrices.”

Now considered one of the early pioneers of research in composite polymer materials, Nicolais made breakthrough contributions to greater understanding of the properties, interfaces, design and technology of advanced structures, with a concentration in aeronautic applications. As he reflects on his career, Nicolais acknowledges, “The project supported by AFOSR in 1977 has a remarkable meaning: a seed for science and knowledge generation in the field of Materials Science and Engineering on composite materials.” For example, in 1989, Nicolais and his team developed a model for predicting chemorheological behavior of thermoset composites that eventually led to the development of an intelligent autoclave, also supported jointly by Boeing and Alenia. His scientific contributions have also benefited society as a whole, leading to improvements in the reduction of fuel consumption, recycling, and biodegradation.

The pioneering research activities performed by Nicolais, and his team, with the support of AFOSR allowed for the establishment of a Materials Science and Engineering school on composite materials, that provides specific competences in the aeronautic sector. These competences have set a series of activities that have led to develop a successful integrated system for aerospace R&D in Campania Region with proficient Universities and Public Research Centers. Moreover, this know-how has contributed to the realization of different technological solutions for Boeing 787 design process and optimal material identification for specific applications in the airframe.

Over the course of the next thirty years Nicolais not only became one of the leading world-renowned experts in his field, he was also elected as President of Sciences & Technologies for University of Naples and founded the School of Materials Engineering. His many achievements included seminal contributions to materials science and Nicolais was recognized with the Award of Order of Merit by the President of the Republic of Italy. Later, Nicolais was appointed as the Minister of Public Innovation and eventually was selected to serve as the President of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), the nation’s largest public research organization, from February 2012 to February 2016. As the President of CNR, Nicolais strengthened Italy’s national and international science and technology cooperation strategy.

International meeting and site visit at the CNR-Bologna Research Area led by Dr. Roberto Zamboni (President of the CNR-Bologna Research Area and Director of the Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity). Representation included Dr. Valeria Bandini (Department Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region Innovation and Technology Transfer Agency), Dr. Morena Diazzi (General Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region), Dr. Silvano Bertini (Head of the Economic Development Policies Unit of the Emilia-Romagna Region) and Prof. Beatrice Fraboni (Rector's Delegate for International Relations at the University of Bologna).

International meeting and site visit at the CNR-Bologna Research Area led by Dr. Roberto Zamboni (President of the CNR-Bologna Research Area and Director of the Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity). Representation included Dr. Valeria Bandini (Department Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region Innovation and Technology Transfer Agency), Dr. Morena Diazzi (General Manager of the Emilia-Romagna Region), Dr. Silvano Bertini (Head of the Economic Development Policies Unit of the Emilia-Romagna Region) and Prof. Beatrice Fraboni (Rector’s Delegate for International Relations at the University of Bologna).

The work of Nicolais and Professor Luigi Ambrosio

Throughout his successful career, Nicolais continued to teach at the University of Naples and maintained many important academic relationships, including one with former graduate student, Prof. Luigi Ambrosio. As Nicolais’s student in the 1970’s, Ambrosio had a keen interest in how composite materials could be used for artificial tendons and ligaments. Under Nicolais’s mentorship, Ambrosio researched concepts that combined knowledge of composite materials with human body applications and this biomimetic approach helped advance the use of biomaterials for health applications. After his graduate studies, and in collaboration with Nicolais, Ambrosio designed the first composite hip joint prostheses, implemented 3D printing for customized musco-skeletal tissue substrates, and developed novel biomaterials that enabled less invasive surgical techniques for improved hospital care. Over time, Ambrosio coordinated several major European Commission projects and was recognized by the Commission’s leadership as Member of the High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies that included the Vice-President of the Commission. His service was highlighted through nominations to prestigious scientific societies such as European Society for Biomaterials, the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering; and others. Ambrosio also served as the Director of CNR’s Department of Chemical and Materials S&T from 2011 to early 2017.

In 2013, the prominent careers of Nicolais and Ambrosio mutually intersected with AFOSR through an ambitious effort led by the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC, that aimed to bridge Italian researchers with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) basic research enterprise. The activity was led by the Embassy’s Scientific Attaché, Mr. Giulio Busulini, and the Assistant Defense Attaché, Colonel (Carabinieri) Giuseppe Battaglia. With the support of Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI) and Ministry of Defence (MOD), Busulini and Battaglia launched a cooperation roadmap that coincided with the AFOSR North American International Office (ION) strategy to build international basic science opportunities through U.S. interagency partnerships. The interagency initiative was led by AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon. Beginning with the 2013 AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange Meeting spearheaded by AFOSR and the Embassy; Nicolais and Ambrosio engaged AFOSR to significantly impact the basic research relationship between the United States and Italy. With Nicolais’s support as the President of CNR, Ambrosio and Busulini would help build the foundation of an Italian national effort to open new collaborative avenues with AFOSR and its partners.

“It was an honor working with Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon and AFOSR in such a challenging discovery and visionary mission.”

Mr. Giulio Busulini

 

Opening remarks to the 2013 AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange Meeting

Opening remarks to the 2013 AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange Meeting. The delegation from Italy was led by Maj. General (AF) Enzo Vecciarelli (Director, MOD Armaments Program Department) and delegation members included Maj. General (AF) Giovanni Fantuzzi (Defense and Defense Cooperation Attaché, Italian Embassy), Captain (N) Leonardo Bianchi (Deputy Director, MOD Armaments Program Department), Captain (N) Francesco Scialla (Head of the Research Office, MOD Armament Programs Department), Colonel (AF) Luca de Martinis (Head of the Air Program Department, MOD Armaments Program Department), Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (Director of the Department of Chemical and Materials Technology, Italian National Research Council), Ing. Giovanni Bertolone (Chairman, Italian Aerospace Technological Cluster), and Ing. Remo Pertica (Chairman, Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defense and Security).

Bourgeoning science diplomacy

“A raindrop can ripple to affect great things. The associations we nurture often flow to unforeseen and surprising consequences. By building the relationships, the rest follows.”

Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon

Over time, Nicolais, Ambrosio and Busulini worked with Bin-Salamon to achieve multiple significant activities that included technical meetings, site visits, and other collaborative efforts. A major accomplishment was the planning of an international researcher exchange effort in 2015 coordinated by ION in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Australian Academy of Science, Australian National Fabrication Facility and the respective governments of Australia and Italy. The exchange of Australian and Italian researchers to laboratories in the United States was successfully executed in 2015 under the auspices of the respective U.S.-Australia and U.S.-Italy Joint Commission Meetings on S&T (JCM).

The National Research Council of Italy participated in the exchanges with a young researcher from the laboratory of Dr. Diletta Sciti at CNR’s Institute of S&T for Ceramics (ISTEC). Sciti was previously supported by AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Ali Sayir. The basic science project directed by Sciti focused on studying the fracture toughness of ultra-high temperature ceramic materials for aerospace applications and involved the collaboration of the Italian Aerospace Research Centre (CIRA). As part of the JCM activities under the bilateral U.S.-Italy Science & Technology Agreement signed biennially between the U.S. Department of State and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; MAECI funded a multi-year collaboration between Sciti’s group and the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition, AFOSR’s support of Sciti’s scientific investigations and researcher exchange with the U.S. provided the necessary fundamental science groundwork for Sciti to successfully compete for a prestigious European Union (EU) consortium award titled, “Next Generation Ceramic Composite for Combustion Harsh Environments and Space” (C3HARME). The substantial multi-year consortium led by Sciti transitions the basic science supported by AFOSR to applied research with significant EU investment comprised of prominent research institutions and industrial partners in Italy, United Kingdom, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, and Spain for the design, manufacture, test and validation of a new class of out-performing ultra-high temperature ceramics toward use in severe aerospace environments.

U.S. Delegation Visit to the CNR Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics in 2016

International meeting at the CNR Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramics (ISTEC) led by Dr. Anna Tampieri (Director of ISTEC). Dr. Diletta Sciti showcased the success of the C3HARME consortium funded by the European Research Commission.

Due to the collaboration between AFOSR, CNR and MAECI; the ISTEC-led European consortium has strong partnership to the U.S. S&T enterprise and provides a critical research infrastructure that U.S. principal investigators can leverage in pursuit of ground-breaking research. “Working with AFOSR Program Managers has been a great opportunity for the Italian researchers to open productive Science collaboration, but also a chance to build a fruitful programmatic government-to-government dialogue among Italy and the U.S.” says Busulini

Members of the Italian delegation and AFOSR (from left to right): Mr. Giuio Busulini, Dr. Vincenzo Guarino, Dr. Anna Tampieri, Dr. Annalisa Convertino, Dr. Valentina Benfenati, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, Prof. Luigi Ambrosio, Prof. Francesco Zerbetto, and Dr. Felice Simeone.

Members of the Italian delegation and AFOSR (from left to right): Mr. Giulio Busulini, Dr. Vincenzo Guarino, Dr. Anna Tampieri, Dr. Annalisa Convertino, Dr. Valentina Benfenati, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, Prof. Luigi Ambrosio, Prof. Francesco Zerbetto, and Dr. Felice Simeone.

Italy’s Ministry of Defence crucially helped secure the accomplishments that bolstered the Italian initiative to engage AFOSR and its interagency partners. The Embassy of Italy’s Defence Attaché staff enabled the necessary landscape that favored success beginning with the 2013 U.S.-Italy Defense S&T Dialogue and the AFOSR-Italy Technical Exchange. Furthermore, the MOD supported the continued basic science exchanges between AFOSR, CNR and MAECI that yielded the 2016 International Basic Research Infrastructure Meeting co-organized by AFOSR, Busulini and Assistant Defence Attaché, Lt. Colonel (AF) Alessio Grasso. Under the auspices of the U.S.-Italy, U.S.-Australia, and U.S.-Republic of South Africa (RSA) working groups of their respective JCMs on S&T, the infrastructure meeting brought together representatives from the participating countries to explore the possibilities of leveraging their respective research infrastructure investments to encourage cutting-edge basic science discoveries beneficial to the participating members. The meeting was attended and closed by Maj. General (AF) Luca Goretti (Defense Attaché, Embassy of Italy). Texas A & M University and Virginia Polytechnic and State University proactively initiated and effectively led technical meetings that included the robust participation of CNR, MAECI, CIRA, the Australian National Fabrication Facility, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; the MINTEK National Science Council of South Africa, as well as U.S. universities. The National Research Council of Italy, in collaboration with AFOSR, followed the technical exchanges with an interagency discussion in Italy that achieved a consensus Smart Sensing and Structures platform. With a common platform in hand, AFOSR with its domestic and international partners achieved significant milestones.

Following the success of the AFOSR-led international researcher exchange between the U.S., Australia and Italy, the AFOSR North American International Office under the leadership of Dr. Mark Maurice initiated the creation of the USAF international student research exchange program. Maurice’s effort directly resulted in the launch of the DOD’s sole basic science international student research exchange program in 2016 that supports AFOSR principal investigators by promoting international collaborations enabling vital scientific advances for the USAF. Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Research Council endorsed the formation of a Smart Sensing and Structures dialogue under the U.S. and Italy JCM. This exchange of ideas helped achieve a multilateral synergy on quantum sensing that directly benefits AFOSR. “The Platform on Smart Sensing and Structures enable not only bilateral engagement but it works to leverage a common research portfolio and funding scheme to better perform and accelerate the result and the multidisciplinary impact of the desirable outcome. This initiative has also been considered as a best practice in the European framework of bilateral S&T cooperation in the transatlantic 2017 review,” says Busulini.

2016 U.S. Interagency Meeting at the National Research Council of Italy

2016 International meeting at the National Research Council of Italy. The discussion was led by Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (Director, CNR Department of Chemical Sciences and Materials Technology) and included Dr. Corrado Spinella (Director, CNR Department of Physical Sciences and Technologies of Matter), Dr. Marco Conti (Director, CNR Department of Engineering, ICT, Energy and Transportation), Prof. Tullio Pozzan (Director, CNR Department of Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Mario Cosmo (General Director, Italian Aerospace Research Center), Prof. Teodoro Valente (Deputy Rector for Research, Innovation and Technology Transfer at the University of Rome -Sapienza), Dr. Stefania Cantoni (Space Division Deputy Manager, Italian Aerospace Research Centre), Dr. John Sankovic (Chief Technologist, NASA Glenn Research Center), Dr. Larry Nagahara (Associate Dean for Research, Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Ozden Ochoa (Tees Research Professor, Texas A&M University), Dr. Shashank Priya (Robert E. Hord Professor and Turner Fellow, Virginia Tech University), Ms. Rosie Hicks (Chief Executive Officer, Australian National Fabrication Facility), and Dr. Makhapa Makhafola (General Manager for R&D, Mintek National Science Council of South Africa).

Included in these efforts are the research investigations in Italy led by Dr. Valentina Benfenati at the CNR Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity to shed light in brain microdomains. The basic science thrust is co-supported by the AFOSR Biophysics program and the National Research Council of Italy and includes the CNR Institute of Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials and the CNR Institute of Microelectronics and Microsystems. Among the collaborative partners in the U.S. and Australia are the University of Vanderbilt, the University of Adelaide, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics, and the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

The partnership grows

“The collaboration with AFOSR led to a unique interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral and international research platform spanning from advanced materials to biophysics including infrastructure sharing among the United States, Italy, South Africa and Australia.”

Prof. Luigi Ambrosio

These synergistic efforts later led to even more U.S.-Italy science and technology collaborations with AFOSR. Ambrosio continued the relationship with AFOSR by serving as the co-chair of the Working Group on Advanced Materials with Bin-Salamon under the U.S.-Italy JCM on S&T. This served as a springboard under the U.S.-Italy Science and Technology Agreement where U.S. and international organizations directly benefited. Among the many activities, the NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC) created a robust collaboration with the Italian Aerospace Research Centre that leverage CIRA’s and GRC’s respective wind tunnels for aircraft icing research. The Australian National Fabrication Facility supported the researcher exchange between the National Research Council of Italy Institute of Nanostructured Materials and the University of Wollongong. Texas A & M University forged a strong collaboration with the MINTEK National Science Council of South Africa on high-temperature materials where South African National Science Council co-supported a research exchange with Texas A & M University. Virginia Polytechnic and State University leverages South African research infrastructure through a joint venture with the RSA National Science Council by using rare earth materials for wind turbine development.

Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon (AFOSR), Dr. Katya Delak (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Prof. Luigi Nicolais (Italian Ministry of Research), Dr. Sonia Ortega (National Science Foundation).

Prof. Luigi Ambrosio (National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon (AFOSR), Dr. Katya Delak (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Prof. Luigi Nicolais (President, National Research Council of Italy), Dr. Sonia Ortega (National Science Foundation).

Nicolais is currently serving as Chief Scientific Advisor of Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research and is glad to see Ambrosio continuing the relationship with AFOSR. Through the decades of the relationship between AFOSR and the science and technology community of Italy, the importance of continuing to build these relationships has remained a priority. Building upon one another’s capabilities and finding ways to create shared competencies has led to several joint projects and co-funding opportunities with AFOSR and Italy; primarily in support of sensing and life sciences. Through collaboration with the Embassy of Italy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Research Council of Italy, and the Italian Ministry of Defence; AFOSR and its partners effectively leverage Italy’s world-class researchers, the research investments of CNR’s €1 billion enterprise, and the €80 billion European Commission Horizon 2020 Program. Scientific opportunities for U.S. organizations range from applied mathematics, materials science, and physics; and includes research institutions at the CNR, universities, public-private partnerships, and government agencies. The AFOSR Biophysics program greatly benefits from the exceptional access to European research infrastructure provided by Italy for top researchers in academia and the Air Force Research Laboratory to discover leading-edge biophysical advances for human performance.

Nicolais never forgot and has appreciated that AFOSR took a chance on him over 30 years ago. He stressed the importance of AFOSR taking that calculated risk years ago to advance science and the mission, “The basic research is the prerequisite of any applied research. If a researcher is not aware of the most advanced knowledge in the field it is difficult that he can provide a breakthrough contribution to new technologies. Also often basic research can lead to advancement of knowledge in the field.”

It is clear that Halpin made a wise investment in Nicolais back in 1977, but more importantly, AFOSR has continued to develop and maintain solid relationships along the way that feed collaborative efforts in support of basic research for the Air Force and our nation.

2018 AFOSR Biophysics Program Review that included the delegations from Italy, Australia and South Africa

2018 AFOSR Biophysics Program Review that included the delegations from Italy, Australia and South Africa

ABOUT AFOSR: The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, located in Arlington, Virginia, continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force’s basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFOSR’s mission is to discover, shape and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force. Through its international enterprise AFOSR supports the Air Force science and technology community by identifying global technological capabilities and accomplishments that can be applied to Air Force needs.

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AFOSR – The importance of basic science in science diplomacy

by Erin Crawley
Air Force Office of Scientific Research

11/23/2015 – ARLINGTON, Va. – The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has a rich history of global engagement, building international partnerships and funding world class basic research scientists to support the science and technology aspects of the Air Force mission.

It seems now more than ever in this globalized era, that if the United States wants to hold its place as the world leader in technological advances and cutting-edge science, continued international engagement is a strategic must. Combining diplomatic efforts with U.S science and technology goals can be a wise approach to achieve that objective.

Dr. E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS), and currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), would agree. A strong advocate of science diplomacy, he has worked with AFOSR Program Officer, Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon, on international collaborations with South Africa, Italy and Australia over the past three years. The relationship between AFOSR and Dr. Colglazier rested on a single overarching principle – mutual trust. From that foundation, AFOSR and STAS set forth on an interagency strategy that opened unique pathways to build international partnerships.

“What I found is that AFOSR is one of those institutions that learned very early on the importance of what globalization is in terms of maintaining U.S. excellence in science and technology. I certainly want the U.S to be the world leader. If the U.S. is going to stay in the forefront, we’ve got to find out who the very good people are in other places doing interesting work and go out and engage with them,” Colglazier said.

Colglazier continued, “So the fact that AFOSR is engaged around the world, it has offices overseas, plus it can fund basic unclassified fundamental research, is surely the crown jewel of American science.”

link graphic A photo of Dr. E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, and currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Over the past three years, Dr. E. William Colglazier, a strong advocate of science diplomacy, collaborated with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to build partnerships with leading scientists and engineers of South Africa, Italy and Australia to strengthen and advance international engagement through science. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Cherie Cullen)

Colglazier’s first engagement with AFOSR was when he was invited to collaborate on the 2011 South Africa Joint Services & Technology Workshop, held in South Africa. “I think AFOSR found it useful to go with someone from the State Department in a joint effort with the Department of Defense (DoD) to help emphasize why it is in the interest of the South African researchers as well as in the interest of the U.S. to develop these relationships,” Colglazier said.

At the time, AFOSR was scouting the best universities, research laboratories, and companies performing unique fundamental science in South Africa, Italy and Australia that might be relevant to AFOSR’s mission. Since then the joint efforts of Dr. Colglazier and Dr. Bin-Salamon led to an unprecedented DoD basic research engagement in continental Africa by building linkages with S&T organizations such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); the African Laser Centre, the Minerals Technology Laboratory, and many others. These relationships created partnership opportunities not just for AFOSR, but also for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Army Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, Army Corp of Engineers, and United States Africa Command. In addition, AFOSR has gone on to fund and build relationships with top African scientists in the areas of materials science, physics, sensors and electronics and hosted the 2014 Joint Services & OSD Africa Technical Exchange, Arlington, VA.

Colglazier sees this new DoD basic research engagement in continental Africa as a great example of what he calls science diplomacy. He says using diplomacy to help advance our relations with other countries and advance the global scientific enterprise is essential.

“While historically, the U.S. has engaged in science and diplomacy efforts both in times of peace and war, it is especially important now for there to be universal acceptance by the U.S. government of the importance of international science and cooperation and its impact on protecting the United States,” Colglazier said.

To further support the efforts in Africa during this time, Dr. Bin-Salamon reached out to Professor Geraldine Richmond, Presidential Chair in Science, Professor of Chemistry at University of Oregon, National Academy of Science member, and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to join forces with AFOSR to visit CSIR and universities in South Africa in hopes of expanding research activities in Africa.

Richmond is a passionate advocate for women in science and is also the Director and co-founder of COACh, a grass-roots organization based at the University of Oregon, assisting in the advancement of women scientists and engineers in both the U.S. and in developing countries. “At that time I accompanied Sofi and a team from AFOSR along with other agencies, to visit CSIR and universities in South Africa, I was very interested in helping to increase research collaborations between scientists in the U.S. and in Africa, especially women scientists who often get overlooked in international collaborations,” Richmond said.

Richmond says the importance of basic science often comes up in discussions at the outset of these joint efforts, in both developing and developed countries. She says this is where AFOSR can assist in international collaborative ventures.

“In many less developed countries, in Africa and Asia, basic science, what I call ‘discovery science’, is a luxury that many believe they cannot afford.   With limited resources I often see the strategy of these countries to instead want to invest in development or applications science rather than discovery science, relying on the more scientifically advanced countries to provide that fundamental knowledge. While I believe that this is a wise choice it is short term oriented. Many of the scientists in those countries still have an interest in doing fundamental science but they generally know that they will likely need international collaborations to do that, or funding from outside of their country. AFOSR can play a role in both assisting in collaborations between U.S. scientists and those in less developed countries and also help to fund discovery science in those countries,” Richmond explained.

“I believe that we have a lot to learn from such joint ventures. In many parts of the world, problems that they face today often foreshadow what we in the U.S. will face in the future. Climate change is a good example of that.   Learning and working with scientists in these countries not only helps them cope with those problems but also helps us prepare for the future. AFOSR can help to bring scientists from different countries together to solve common problems, creating international networks that are necessary for solving global problems that do not have boundaries. This is where AFOSR can have a huge impact,” Richmond said.

That same year Bin-Salamon and Colglazier worked together to build strategic basic research and diplomatic collaborations between the U.S. and Australia by working with the Australian government and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF). This eventually led AFOSR to leverage the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) that resulted in many successful partnerships with the Australian research landscape involving the Australian Department of Education and Training; the Department of Industry and Science; Australian Academy of Science, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; and Australian universities.

Over the past four years the extensive collaborative efforts between AFOSR and the Australian Government resulted in three successful major engagements, with the most recent one, the US-Australia Enabling Technologies Technical Exchange Meeting, taking place in May 2015 in Arlington, Va.

Two key players from the Education, Science and Technology Branch of the Embassy of Australia, Mr. Michael Schwager, former Minister-Counsellor for Education, Science and Technology and Ms. Laura Rahn, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, along with Mrs. Rosie Hicks, ANFF CEO, collaborated with AFOSR to be inclusive of Australian researchers from all Australian universities and publically funded research agencies as part of the program agenda. Australian researchers were chosen to participate depending on possible new areas of collaboration between Australian and U.S. participants and the potential to enhance international cooperation in the development, operation and use of research infrastructure.

The result was an amazing gathering of more than 80 participants from the U.S. and Australia. Thirty-five researchers from 17 Australian universities and four publically funded research agencies were in attendance and presented to a range of U.S. research funding agencies and universities. This year’s workshop was the largest one thus far, attracting more candidates and participants than in previous years, creating a collaborative innovative environment for researchers to discuss their cutting edge research.

“In addition to the Enabling Technologies Workshop, the Australian Government also supported a pilot research placement program in 2014 which placed Australian researchers in AFOSR funded labs across the U.S.. This was a successful way to continue the ongoing linkages between Australian and AFOSR funded researchers by enabling them to interact face to face in the lab with their US counterpart,” said Schwager, Head of the Science & Commercialisation Division in the Australian Federal Department of Industry & Science.

Schwager continued, “It is through these activities that the Australian Government hopes to strengthen our connections with AFOSR further and to foster future innovations.”

Following engagements in continental Africa and Australia, the pattern of creating relationships between AFOSR and global civilian research organizations repeated in Italy in the following years.

In 2013 Colglazier introduced Bin-Salamon to Mr. Giulio Busulini, Scientific Attaché at the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C., to establish a science and technology dialogue with the Italian S&T community. Since then they have been coordinating together on several fronts, to include very successful collaborations with Italian science organizations.

In addition, Bin-Salamon and Busulini worked diligently with representatives from U.S. Department of State, Italian Ministry of Research, the Italian Ministry of Defense, and the Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defense and Security; to organize the AFOSR/Italy Technical Exchange as part of the US-Italy Defense S&T Dialogue. The effort established interagency engagements with the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) through the AFOSR/NIH/CNR Technical Exchange and the AFOSR/DARPA/NCI Strategic Workshop, and CIRA Italian Aerospace Research Centre that manages one of the top hypersonics testing facility in the world. In unprecedented fashion, CIRA has participated in AFOSR Program Reviews to engage the USAF basic research enterprise, and the Embassy of Italy worked in concert with AFOSR to support projects and researcher exchanges between Italian universities and AFOSR-funded academic laboratories. By opening new doors with CNR and CIRA, there are now opportunities to enable scientist from the U.S. to use the CIRA testing facilities for basic research purposes. Collaborators hope this will also create opportunities for more technology transfers for the DoD and aerospace industry.

“CIRA gave their first presentation to AFOSR at the US-Italy Joint Defense S&T Dialogue, held in 2013 in Washington, D.C., and showed to the U.S. Program managers how they might use the testing facilities for specific scientific areas. In addition, during this meeting, CIRA also communicated their interest in some joint research efforts,” Busulini said.

Appreciative of the newly established relationship with AFOSR, Busulini said, “This collaboration enabled us to bring CIRA in the conversation. Our relationship with AFOSR helped to accelerate the progress to start a more open dialogue in basic research”, Busulini said.

Another positive outcome resulting from the science and technology dialogue between AFOSR and the Italian Government is that the Ministry of Defense of Italy is moving toward more collaborative opportunities in basic science.

“AFOSR has mechanisms in place that make it very simple to fund and co-fund opportunities while making more efficient and economically beneficial investments. Additionally, the AFOSR model encourages long-term science and technology strategies that enable international partners to better connect with new scientific frontiers,” Busulini said.

While the success of these collaborations with continental Africa, Australia and Italy are the result of a lot of hard work by very committed and dedicated governments, scientists, program officers, academic institutions and industry partners, some of these relationships never would have been established without Colglazier in the mix.

“Dr. Colglazier’s partnership was central in our initiative to create a new international basic research landscape for AFOSR,” said Dr. Bin-Salamon. “By working together in a way that complemented our resources, we achieved successes that would not have occurred otherwise.”

A photo of Dr. E. William Colglazier and Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon.

Dr. E. William Colglazier and Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon share a common view of partnering with scientists around the world to advance the U.S. scientific enterprise while enabling the international community to solve global problems. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Cherie Cullen)

Through science diplomacy we can increase our global reach and help to influence a better future. “For me, science diplomacy is not about using science as a tool to advance our diplomatic goals like influencing the behavior of other countries and their investments, but it is also about using diplomacy in international engagement to advance the U.S. scientific enterprise,” added Colglazier.

The efforts of the State Department and AFOSR working together have helped to strengthen that enterprise. Colglazier expressed his appreciation in working with AFOSR, “Dr. Sofi Bin-Salamon has been a very valued colleague of mine and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s been my partner in terms of engagement together, in Africa and in other countries. He’s an example of one of these bright young scientists who has come into the public policy sphere through these fellowship programs, originally through the AAAS, and who have become civil servants and very important components of the strategy of agencies like AFOSR for international engagement around the world.”

Dr. Colglazier is currently a Visiting Scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Find more information about Dr. Colglazier’s work in this area at: The United States Looks to the Global Science, Technology, and Innovation Horizon, and Platform of Enhancing Global Academic Strategic Collaboration in Science (PEGASCIS).

ABOUT AFOSR:

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, located in Arlington, Virginia, continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force’s basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFOSR’s mission is to discover, shape and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force. Through its international enterprise AFOSR supports the Air Force science and technology community by identifying foreign technological capabilities and accomplishments that can be applied to Air Force needs.

To stay up-to-date on the latest AFOSR happenings, please join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Week in Review: 12/21/14 – 12/27/14

December 23, 2014

Air Force, small business develop technologies that help electronics stay cool
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and a small business partner are developing technologies that they expect will enable successful use of high-power processors that operate on satellites with funding from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
http://www.wpafb.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123435244

December 22, 2014

That Old PlayStation Can Aid Science
This spring, Gaurav Khanna noticed that the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth physics department was more crowded than usual. Why, he wondered, were so many students suddenly so interested in science?http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/science/an-economical-way-to-save-progress.html?_r=1

Hands on: Crafting ultrathin color coatings
In Harvard’s high-tech cleanroom, applied physicists produce vivid optical effects—on paper | The Capasso group was supported in this research by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Draper Laboratory. The Center for Nanoscale Systems is a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, supported by the National Science Foundation.
http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2014/12/hands-on-crafting-ultrathin-color-coatings

Week in Review: 12/14/14 – 12/20/14

December 17, 2014

8 Scientists Who Are Changing The World
John Rogers, scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign:
Dissolvable electronic materials – that’s what this American engineer is trying to perfect, in a bid to create materials that could be integrated into biological organisms (i.e. humans) with minimal problems. The potential is huge – environmentally-friendly gadgets that protect the planet by degrading naturally and bio-medical instruments which can be used in advanced surgery or within human patients.
https://uk.news.yahoo.com/8-scientists-who-are-changing-the-world-073052289.html#VXglRQh

Week in Review: 12/7/14 – 12/13/14

December 11, 2014

Penn Research Outlines Basic Rules for Construction With a Type of Origami
A team of University of Pennsylvania researchers is turning kirigami, a related art form that allows the paper to be cut, into a technique that can be applied equally to structures on those vastly divergent length scales. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation through its ODISSEI program, the American Philosophical Society and the Simons Foundation.
http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-research-outlines-basic-rules-construction-type-origami

December 10, 2014

Defects are perfect in laser-induced graphene
Researchers at Rice University have created flexible, patterned sheets of multilayer graphene from a cheap polymer by burning it with a computer-controlled laser. The process works in air at room temperature and eliminates the need for hot furnaces and controlled environments, and it makes graphene that may be suitable for electronics or energy storage.
http://news.rice.edu/2014/12/10/defects-are-perfect-in-laser-induced-graphene/

December 9, 2014

Local Scrabble player places second in world
A competitive Scrabble player who works at the Rome Air Force Research Laboratory, Lipe last month achieved what he called an “amazing experience,” finishing second at the world Scrabble Champions Tournament in London.
http://romesentinel.com/county/local-scrabble-player-places-second-in-world/QBqnlh!8bJmTlrrvCgSyy7qVVVG3Q/

Contact lens merges plastics and active electronics via 3-D printing
As part of a project demonstrating new 3-D printing techniques, Princeton researchers have embedded tiny light-emitting diodes into a standard contact lens, allowing the device to project beams of colored light.
http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S41/81/41S44/index.xml