Chen takes leave for National Science Foundation post

A distinguished professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is taking a leave of absence to join the National Science Foundation to manage a subset of federally funded engineering research centers.

Junhong Chen, a UWM distinguished professor of mechanical and materials engineering, has been named program director of NSF’s Engineering Research Centers Program, a post that he will hold for up to two years.

Junhong Chen

Chen has experience working with NSF’s Directorate for Engineering. In Milwaukee, he has headed the Water Equipment and Policy Center, an NSF-supported industry-university cooperative research center, since its inception in 2010. That center, one of 69 such NSF centers, links UWM and Marquette University researchers with the water-tech industry.

With three other managers, Chen will oversee and coordinate the activities of the 20 Engineering Research Centers across the U.S. These centers create an innovative, inclusive culture in engineering for pursuit of new ideas and stimulation of discovery that achieves a significant science and societal outcome within the 10-year timeframe of NSF support.

The work of the ERCs is focused on finding engineered systems with the potential to spawn whole new industries or radically transform the product lines, processing technologies, or service delivery methodologies of current industries. NSF views ERCs as change agents for academic engineering programs and the engineering community at large.

During this time at NSF, Chen will retain his UWM faculty status.

— Laura Otto