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TN-SCORE Conference Marks Final Year of National Science Foundation Designation

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KNOXVILLE – The final year of a multi-institutional research project funded by the National Science Foundation and led by the University of Tennessee kicks off at the TN-SCORE annual conference today in Nashville.

Tennessee was declared eligible for the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program to increase statewide research infrastructure in 2002. A collaboration of institutions in Tennessee led by UT won a five-year, $20 million EPSCoR grant in 2010 for its proposal called TN-SCORE (Tennessee Solar Conversion and Storage using Outreach, Research and Education).

The TN-SCORE conference, which has been held annually during the life of the project, this year features several speakers, including Mark Swenson, vice president of production engineering and component facilities at Nissan North America. He will be the keynote speaker today and talk about production of the Nissan Leaf electric car at the company’s plant in Smyrna. Other conference speakers include Gisele Muller-Parker, program officer for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program; Kelvin Chu, NSF program officer; and Jim Stefansic, commercialization director for LaunchTN. To view the conference agenda, visit

The project, with 31 collaborating partners, has garnered $9.6 million in new research funding and yielded two start-up companies. With support from the TN-SCORE program, the state has increased its overall NSF funding and is no longer eligible for new EPSCoR awards. TN-SCORE and related co-funding will continue until 2015, building on the unprecedented collaboration between public and private universities in Tennessee and increased educational opportunities for students and teachers.

“The collaborations and relationships we have established are providing pathways for more opportunities,” said John Hopkins, director of strategic operations for the UT System and director of Tennessee NSF and EPSCoR programs. “We have established momentum in the area of energy research, and we hope to continue it beyond the life of TN-SCORE.”

TN-SCORE has increased continuing education for K-12 STEM teachers, provided research opportunities and internships for undergraduate students and linked researchers at institutions across the state who focus on finding better ways to convert solar energy and store it. More than 60 faculty and 160 students have participated in collaborative research projects.

Over the past year, TN-SCORE research has developed or matured several technologies with potential for commercial application. Research in vanadium redox flow batteries at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has led to a provisional license to a Boston company, WattJoule. Two start-up companies have been formed around other technologies. A Nashville company, IOP Technologies, is based on innovation related to thermionic energy conversion developed by Vanderbilt University post-doc Hank Paxton. A Knoxville company, Peroxygen Systems, is based on electrochemical catalyst research developed by a team in the lab of Tom Zawodzinski, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Electrical Energy Conversion, and founded by UT Knoxville post-doc Ming QI. IOP Technologies has won a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation.

Among the many other program highlights are new faculty hires at Vanderbilt and UT, NSF CAREER Awards to University of Memphis faculty, a new bioinformatics concentration in collaboration between biology and computer science at Tennessee State University and improved research capabilities at the Vanderbilt Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) and the UT Knoxville Basic Research Applied to Novel Electrochemical Systems (BRANE) Laboratory.

UT Knoxville researchers have used their expertise in fundamental materials diagnostics and processing to win new research funding. Associate professors Ramki Kalyanaraman and Gerd Duscher in the department of materials science and engineering in the UT Knoxville College of Engineering are funded by the Army Research Office to study plasmons in magnetic materials, and a collaboration of Duscher; Bin Hudad, professor of materials science and engineering; and Mark Dadmun, professor of chemistry, have provided corroboration among various diagnostic methods, including some of the unique neutron scattering capabilities available at ORNL to serve as a basis for two new NSF awards.

For more information about TN-SCORE, visit

Category: Announcements