URI wins $20 million NSF grant for marine life science research

PETER ALFONSO, VP of Research & Economic Development at URI, was the principal investigator for the $20 million NSF grant.
Posted 9/8/10

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant of $20 million to support marine life science research in the Ocean State, the university announced Tuesday.

“This is a landmark grant for the university and for the state of Rhode Island that will help to propel us into national prominence in life sciences research and development,” said URI President David M. Dooley.

The Infrastructure to Advance Life Sciences in the Ocean State project grant was awarded through the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. It is the largest single grant URI has received in its history and the maximum grant amount awarded by the NSF.

“It will allow us to take advantage of Rhode Island’s unique niche and resources, positioning the Ocean State as a leader in understanding and predicting how marine organisms and ecosystems respond to climate change,” said Dooley.

URI is the lead on the project and will collaborate with the other eight colleges and universities in the state. Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design are serving as the co-principal institutions for the grant. Also involved in the grant are Bryant University, the Community College of Rhode Island, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University.

“The economic development benefits resulting from this grant are significant,” commented Peter Alfonso, vice president for research and economic development at URI and the principal investigator for the grant. “We will acquire high-tech equipment that will enable us to compete for more and larger grants in the future, and we will provide jobs and training for hundreds of students, lab technicians and others for the next five years.”

The grant, administered over five years, will support 37 graduate and 165 undergraduate students through various research fellowships. Programs for middle-school and high-school students will be provided through the Rhode island EPSCoR Academy, an organization of the nine colleges and universities and the Slater Technology Fund.

“This project will provide a platform for engaging the widest possible range of scientists, artists and designers around the pressing issues of understanding and communicating the impacts of climate change,” said David Bogen, associate provost for academic affairs at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The R.I. Economic Development Corporation has committed $4 million in cost-sharing over the five-year duration of the NSF grant to help support the state’s development in science, technology, engineering and math. In addition, the Slater Technology Fund will train five entrepreneurial fellows per year for the duration of the grant.

In 2006, URI had received a four-year, $8 million grant from the NSF, which established the Rhode Island EPSCoR Academy and set the ground work for improving the state’s infrastructure for the marine life sciences research.

Additional information is available at

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