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May 2, 2006


Use of Mid-Infrared Light Opens Way for Breakthroughs in Medicine and Environment

NEW YORK, May 2, 2006 – A National Science Foundation (NSF) funded multi-million dollar Engineering Research Center opened at Princeton University yesterday with The City College of New York (CCNY) a core partner in the quest for groundbreaking sensor technology.

Dubbed MIRTHE, for Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment, the center is expected to revolutionize sensor technology, yielding devices that have a unique ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the atmosphere, emitted from factories, or exhaled in human breath.

The goal of the research is to produce devices that are so low in cost and so easy to use that they transform aspects of the way doctors care for patients, states monitor air quality, governments guard against attack and scientists understand the evolution of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

MIRTHE will combine the work of about 40 faculty members, 30 graduate students, and 30 undergraduates from its six core partner institutions: Princeton, CCNY, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Rice University, The Johns Hopkins University and Texas A&M University. The center is also collaborating with dozens of industrial partners to commercialize the technology and working with several educational outreach partners to use the research as a vehicle for improving science and engineering education.

Another mission of MIRTHE is to help ensure a competitive U.S. workforce by educating a new generation of leaders who will carry forward the center’s knowledge to industry, government and academia. The center will incorporate extensive efforts to engage college and K-12 students in hands-on science and engineering projects, with major outreach programs taking place at CCNY, University of Maryland-Baltimore County and Princeton.

Dr. Joseph Barba, acting Dean of the Grove School of Engineering at CCNY, called MIRTHE “an excellent example of the multidisciplinary approach at CCNY that capitalizes on existing strengths to successfully build cutting edge academic programs.”

Dr. Fred Moshary, CCNY Professor of Electrical Engineering and Deputy Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center (NOAA-CREST) based at The City College, added that MIRTHE’s goals are an excellent match for current activities at CCNY.

Highlighting City College’s contribution to the new center, Dr. Moshary observed: “through CCNY, MIRTHE research will contribute to ongoing national and regional/local environmental efforts. This includes, for example, MIRTHE’s impact on our research focus on urban and regional air quality monitoring and modeling with our partners at NOAA, NASA, EPA and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“Our research programs have a strong focus on recruitment and training of traditionally underrepresented minorities in science and engineering, and the undergraduate student body at CCNY would provide MIRTHE with a great pool of students for outreach and recruitment.”

“Easy access to CCNY and Princeton campuses from New York City will allow for a meaningful involvement of students from CUNY campuses in year-round MIRTHE activities, making MIRTHE research experience an integral part of their education,” he noted.

MIRTHE is the latest of several NSF interdisciplinary centers located at universities across the United States. The centers are among the foundation’s largest and most prestigious grants. The NSF has agreed to provide $15 million in funding over five years, with the possibility of renewal for another five years. Through additional funding from corporate partners and other sources, the center is expected to conduct more than $40 million in research and educational activities over 10 years.