OSU Scores National Science Foundation Awards

And the grants from National Science Foundation grants go to – drumroll please – early-career faculty in the Oregon State University College of Engineering! One for the study of mass timber use and building construction, another for researching how to safely produce hydrogen gas from seawater, and the last for bettering species distribution models. 

The recipients of these awards, called Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER awards, are Erica Fischer, Kelsey Stoerzinger, and Rebecca Hutchinson.  

Fischer is an assistant professor of civil and construction engineering. She was selected for her proposal to create change in the way modular buildings are constructed from timber, something that she notes is due for an update. 

This can be used to address housing shortages and change job sites by increasing safety and the speed of construction, as well as lowering costs, Fischer said to OSU’s Newsroom. 

The $560,000 award will be put toward developing new technology for the design of buildings and how they are made and assembled. Additionally, it will be used to increase the structural integrity of buildings located in places with a high risk of earthquakes or high wind loads.  

Stoerzinger, assistant professor of chemical engineering, was awarded for her proposal on how to “split” seawater into hydrogen and oxygen gas and avoid byproducts that present concerns about safety and the environment. Hydrogen has many roles in the scientific, industrial, and energy-related areas, one of which being in fuel cells for cars.  

Stoerzinger will use the $550,000 award to design and test ways to split water. This will aid in creating ways to be less dependent on non-renewable resources, Stoerzinger said. 

Hutchinson, an assistant professor with appointments in both engineering (computer science) and the College of Agricultural Sciences (fisheries, wildlife, conservation sciences), was selected due to her proposal to improve the way machine learning methods make species distribution models. 

Her $564,000 award will be used to correct the bias that can happen from the way spatial data is calculated, and the underreporting of species. This can help increase the quality of knowledge about biodiversity. 

“The error introduced by underreporting can be corrected by conducting multiple observations at the same site and estimating the probability of detecting the species, but community science programs usually aren’t set up that way,” Hutchinson said. “Our award will support research to create groups of multiple observations after the fact to better account for underreporting.” 

The NFS’s website says their CAREER program supports 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.”  

By: Hannah Ramsey