Holly Samuelson Awarded Starter Grant Funding from the National Science Foundation

Holly Samuelson, Associate Professor of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, is part of a multidisciplinary team that has been awarded a major grant by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF). The team’s project, titled “Intelligent Nature-inspired Olfactory Sensors Engineered to Sniff (iNOSES),” addresses the urgent need to “acquire real-time information about the air we breathe,” according to their proposal. The portable chemical gas sensor they are developing relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately identify volatile compounds in the air.

Samuelson is a Co-Principal Investigator alongside Alexander Tropsha, Professor of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Principal Investigator is Joanna Aizenberg, Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Material Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and associate faculty at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

The NSF recently announced investing $10.4 million to “develop innovative technologies and solutions to address a wide range of challenges related to chemical and biological sensing.”  The Phase 1 grant that Samuelson’s team received is worth approximately $650,000.

According to the team’s proposal: “The real-time chemical sensing data will pave the way to standardization in detection and reporting across sectors, a documented challenge leading to poor accountability in emission monitoring, inefficiently timed ventilation and air purification processes, and unnecessary food waste, all of which are responsible for immense climate, health, and socio-economic impacts.”

The team is working toward the Phase 2 grant submission, which is focused on bridging basic science and market deployment. Six teams be funded in Phase 2 for up to $5,000,000 each.

The grant is part of the NSF “Convergence Accelerator Track” program. According to an NSF press release, the program “builds upon a wealth of foundational knowledge and recent advances in chemical sensing, sensor technology, robotics, biomanufacturing, computational modeling and olfaction to address challenges related to environmental quality, industrial agriculture, food safety, disease detection and diagnostics, personal care, substance use or misuse and possible adversarial threats.”

The NSF is an independent federal agency that supports science and engineering in all 50 states and US territories. Established in 1950 by Congress, the agency’s investments account for 25 percent of federal support to America’s colleges and universities for basic research.