With a focus on fostering path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation and patient care improvements, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation provides funding and develops strong relationships with Princeton researchers working in areas of critical importance to humanity, including quantum science and physics, sustainability and molecular biology.
Advancing the Science of Quantum Materials
In May 2020, M. Zahid Hasan, N. Phuan Ong and Ali Yazdani were each awarded five-year grants through Moore’s Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems (EPiQS) Initiative. EPiQS supports exploratory quantum materials research with the aim of accelerating progress in the field and propelling it into a state in which new, deeper questions can be asked about the organizing principles of complex quantum matter.
Just a year earlier in July 2019, Princeton physicists Bogdan A. Bernevig (PI), Ravindra Bhatt, F. Duncan Haldane (winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics), David Huse and Shivaji Sondhi were awarded a grant to form an EPiQS Theory Center at Princeton. This grant lasts for a period of 66 months and supports fundamental research on quantum materials, which are condensed matter systems exhibiting complex behavior of electrons. The Theory Center enables early-career researchers to acquire expertise in quantum materials theory through flexible postdoctoral appointments.
The Moore Foundation also funded M. Zahid Hasan, professor of physics, and his team in 2019 when they discovered a surprising quantum effect in a high-temperature iron-containing superconductor, leading to new insights into a 60-year old theory of how superconductivity behaves. Superconductors can greatly aid energy efficiency, having a characteristic critical temperature below which their electrical resistance drops abruptly to zero. Moore Foundation funding has also supported Class of 1909 Professor of Physics Ali Yazdani and his team’s new understanding of the properties of a superconducting “magic-angle” material. Consisting of twisted graphene layers, the material could dramatically boost energy efficient power transmission.
The Moore Foundation has also funded quantum research in the Department of Chemistry. Leslie Schoop, now an associate professor of chemistry, and Robert Cava, the Russell Wellman Moore Professor of Chemistry, each received five-year grants as part of the EPiQS Initiative. The Schoop lab focuses on using chemical principles to find new materials with exotic physical properties. The Cava lab studies the relationships between chemistry, crystal structure, and electronic and magnetic properties of non-molecular solids.
The Moore Foundation also supported research in the Schoop Lab and Scholes Group on a rare photo-induced phase transition in a topological semimetal. This research could potentially reveal the compound ZrSiTe as an ideal candidate for high-frequency optoelectronics (light-detecting, light-emitting, or light-controlling devices).
Supporting Green Chemistry
In 2022, Paul Chirik, the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry, was among the first chemists in the nation to receive funding from the Moore Foundation’s new “exploration phase” grants in support of green chemistry. Once considered an oxymoron, green chemistry has enjoyed a new vigor in recent years as chemists take up the banner to find chemical solutions for everything from closed-loop recycling to the replacement of toxic catalysts in industrial processes. Chirik's $1 million, three-year grant funds his proposal for, “Iron Catalysts for a Biorenewable Hydrocarbon Future”. The Foundation called Paul a “leading expert in sustainable catalysis”and noted that they look forward “to supporting his work and also having Paul provide the Foundation with expert advice.” Chirik called the grant “game changing.” Grants like this one, he said, will enable new technologies that support the transition from fossil fuel-based hydrocarbon building blocks to those that are bioderived and renewable.
Studying Living Systems
The Moore Foundation has also funded aquatic symbiosis research in the Department of Molecular Biology through its Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative. This initiative advances knowledge of how symbiotic associations function and participate in ecology and evolution in marine and freshwater systems. As one of the initiative’s fifteen researchers, Mohamed Abou Donia, associate professor of molecular biology, is receiving five years of unrestricted support to pursue innovative, risky research, with the goal of learning more about the origins, evolution, physiology, ecology and natural history of aquatic symbioses. Donia studies the chemical and biological interactions between various aquatic organisms – such as marine sponges, algae and mollusks – and the microbes with which they form symbiotic relationships.
The Moore Foundation awarded a grant to Haw Yang, professor of chemistry, to develop a set of technologies that will allow scientists to remotely control and navigate individual nanoscale devices—and the chemistry around them—inside living cells in 3-D. His project was funded by the foundation’s Imaging Molecular Interactions program, which supports early-stage experiments that may lead to the development of higher-resolution, molecular-level imaging tools.
In the spring of 2022, the Moore Foundation gave a $2 million grant to Amit Singer, professor of mathematics and a member of the executive committee of the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics (PACM), for work on an algorithm-based software for use in cryo-electron microscopy.
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