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National Science Foundation: Partnerships for International Research and Education Award

Computationally-Based Imaging of Structure in Materials (CuBISM)

Art objects age over time, and while the materials that make up these objects hold intrinsic archival value, the objects are also models for understanding property degradation over long periods of time. CuBISM aims to develop computational and experimental tools needed to understand how these changes take place. To accomplish this task, a research network has been established between Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts and leaders in cultural heritage science from the Rijksmuseum and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the National Research Council in Italy, and the Synchrotron Soleil in France. This new infrastructure promises to deliver a significant enhancement of research and educational resources (networks, partnerships, and increased access to facilities and instrumentation) to a diverse group of users.

The art objects central to the project provide a series of well-defined case studies for investigating complex materials systems that are both applicable to materials education and that push the limits of the existing analytical tools, thereby inspiring instrumental innovations across broad sectors of the physical sciences. Further development of these tools will enable art conservators to more effectively make informed decisions about treatments of works of art, and to understand long-term materials degradation more generally.

The project will also deliver a significant enhancement of research and education infrastructure by a diverse group of users and will provide meaningful, international research experience to 50 participants, with a strong emphasis on scientists at the beginning of their careers. The connections between science and art illustrate the creative aspects of both disciplines to a very broad audience, attracting a more representative cross section of people into the scientific field.

Learn more about the NSF award here.