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Grants Add to Northwestern-Qatar Partnership

Neural engineering and surface science projects receive Qatar National Research Fund awards

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June 18, 2012 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has received its first research grants from the Qatar National Research Fund, a branch of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, opening the door to increased collaborations between Northwestern faculty and researchers in Qatar. 

The two grants, each worth $1,050,000 over three years, are part of $140.5 million awarded to 156 research proposals from around the world under the flagship National Priorities Research Program (NPRP), which was designed to foster collaborative research to benefit Qatar. 

The awards illustrate how Northwestern’s partnership with the Qatar Foundation has evolved from the founding of Northwestern University in Qatar with its undergraduate programs in journalism and communication to now include grant-funded research. (NU-Q’s inaugural class recently graduated, and most of the seniors attended the June 15 commencement ceremony in Evanston.) 

“These prestigious awards reflect the excellent work of our faculty, and we look forward to establishing more of these international collaborations,” said Northwestern Vice President for Research Jay Walsh. 

One NPRP award went to John B. Troy, department chair and professor of biomedical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, who is collaborating with colleagues at Qatar University. Troy’s team will work on developing a prosthesis that interfaces with the brain to restore vision to patients who are blind through loss of retinal ganglion cells, which can occur in glaucoma and optic neuritis. 

“In Qatar, glaucoma is said to account for 40 percent of its cases of blindness, and 16 percent of people above age 40 are afflicted with this disease,” Troy said. “We hope to create a small footprint for biomedical engineering in this rapidly developing country, specifically in the area of neural engineering.” 

The other award went to a team comprising Tobin J. Marks, the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of materials science and engineering; Q. Jane Wang, professor of mechanical engineering; and Yip-Wah Chung, professor of materials science and engineering. 

The team is collaborating with Texas A&M University at Qatar on a multidisciplinary project to develop and evaluate the molecular surface science of materials that would serve as new types of high-performance lubricants, especially in hot, dusty, desert regions of the world. 

The Qatar Foundation aims to support Qatar on its journey from a natural-resource-based economy to a knowledge economy by unlocking human potential. His Highness, the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, established the foundation in 1995. His wife, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, is the organization’s chairperson and driving force. 

The Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), established in 2006, fosters collaboration between Qatar and internationally recognized researchers. It supports original, competitively selected research in natural sciences, engineering and technology, medical and health sciences and social sciences and humanities. 

The sixth funding cycle of the National Priorities Research Program is scheduled to begin in September. 

For more information on QNRF funding opportunities, contact Indrani Mukharji, executive director of international research partnerships at Northwestern, at (312) 503-2903 or indrani@northwestern.edu.

Topics: University