University of Alabama at Birmingham physics professor Christopher Lawson, Ph.D., of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, has been elected board chair of a national, nonprofit coalition that promotes the importance of vibrant science and technology in states that historically have received smaller amounts of federal R&D funding.
He will lead the Coalition of EPSCoR/IDeA States in its efforts to improve university research infrastructure and competiveness, and help level the research playing field. The coalition includes Alabama and 24 other states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Four federal agencies offer EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grants and awards — the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and NASA. IDeA (Institutional Development Award) grants in biomedical, clinical and translational research are supported by the National Institutes of Health.
As coalition chair, Lawson organizes coalition activities such as visits with members of Congress, coordination with federal agencies, and annual retreats and conferences. Lawson will also serve as the public face for congressional testimony, media interviews and editorials.
Since 2010, Lawson has served as executive director of Alabama EPSCoR, a consortium that includes the seven Alabama Ph.D.-granting institutions, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the Alabama Commerce Department and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
Alabama EPSCoR works to establish infrastructure that will maintain and increase national science and technology research competitiveness in Alabama. Research funding from federal agencies in 2012-2015 totaling $66 million has supported Alabama researchers, graduate students and undergraduate students. Additionally, large numbers of K-12 teachers and students are involved through outreach activities.
Alabama EPSCoR places special emphasis on collaboration with underrepresented groups working in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As Alabama EPSCoR executive director, Lawson also directs the Graduate Research Scholars Program, which offers awards statewide to attract the skilled and bright graduate students who will increase Alabama’s high-tech human resources.
Since 2006, award recipients in the graduate scholars program have earned 48 master’s degrees and 146 Ph.D. degrees.
Lawson’s research interests in the UAB Department of Physics are nonlinear optics, and optical sensing and imaging. Before joining UAB, Lawson led defense-related optics research projects as principal scientist for BDM International in McLean, Virginia.