Physics, Mathematics leading quantum science Grand Challenges project

Chancellor Rodney Bennett and Bob Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development, announced 11 new Grand Challenges projects on Aug. 28. Projects include three catalyst awards and eight planning grants, for an investment of $10 million in the program’s second year.

One of the teams earning a catalyst award is led by Christian Binek, Charles Bessey Professor of physics and director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience, and Susan Hermiller, Willa Cather Professor of mathematics. Hermiller is currently teaching Math 811T this semester for the online Master of Arts for Teachers degree.

With the catalyst "Quantum Approaches Addressing Global Threats," Binek and Hermiller will lead a highly interdisciplinary team of 22 faculty who will leverage the rapidly growing field of quantum science and engineering to address major global threats. The world is facing daunting changes in the coming decades — and quantum science and engineering can offer solutions for helping humans adapt. The team has four focus areas: solutions to address the growing energy needs for communication and information processing; sustainable agriculture; achieving climate resilience; and quantum literacy and workforce development.

The project builds on Nebraska’s internationally recognized discoveries in materials, nanoscience, and emergent quantum materials and technologies. While the basis of the project is using quantum science to model, plan, predict and engineer solutions to solve global problems, the team is incorporating diverse perspectives and unconventional problem-solving strategies to fully understand the challenges and opportunities. Faculty experts from mathematics, physics and astronomy, public relations, mechanical and materials engineering, electrical and computer engineering, computer science, chemistry, emerging media arts and music have been fully integrated into the project, which received a five-year, $4.17 million award from the Grand Challenges initiative.

One of the planning grant recipients is Clint Rowe, professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, who was the 2022 keynote speaker at the Nebraska Physics and Astronomy Summit. Rowe is leading a project called “Community Climate Resilience on the Great Plains," and event assistance will be provided by the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education.

A total of $20 million has been granted so far through the four-year, $40 million initiative, a commitment by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Research and Economic Development to strategically invest funds earmarked for research.

Read more about the funded projects at: