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$800,000 of U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah's appointed grant will go towards Penn professor Dr. Marc F. Schmidt's research on the evolution of neural circuitry in songbirds

Credit: Daniel Xu | Contributing Photographer

The National Science Foundation will award over $1.9 million in grants to two projects at the University of Pennsylvania and one at Drexel University.

The majority of the NSF funding will go to two projects at Penn in vastly differing fields.

An $800,000 grant will fund research from associate professor of biology Dr. Marc F. Schmidt. He and several co-investigators will pursue a project that studies the evolution of neural circuitry in songbirds. Using female songbirds, they plan to study “a circuit that has always been assumed to be linked to song production [in male songbirds] and ask how it might be used in females to produce a very different behavior,“ said Dr. Schmidt.

For Dr. Schmidt, this grant was essential to be able to continue his research.

“I had been unsuccessful in getting federal funding for the last four years, and was surviving on ‘bridge’ funding that was generously provided by the Dean’s Office in the School of Arts and Sciences,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he was “ecstatic” to receive the funding, which will allow him and his colleagues to fully fund the portion of his lab that focuses on female songbird research.

The funding will specifically allow Dr. Schmidt to hire a technician, two graduate students and several undergraduate students to work on the project, as well as to pay for animal costs, opportunities for international collaboration and general supplies.

A second $1.1 million grant will go to assistant professor of computer science Dr. Linh Thi Xuan Phan.

Phan, along with the Raj and Neera Singh Assistant Professor of Computer Science Andreas Haeberlen and Associate Professor of Computer Science and Masters Program Chair Dr. Boon Thau Loo, will pursue research in the area of networks function virtualization, an essential part of modern data centers.

The project aims to “build a new infrastructure for NFV that can deliver missing properties” that had been absent or unavailable in earlier iterations of the technology, said Phan.

The NSF grant was also essential to the continuation of her research, Phan said. While Phan has had access to grants from other agencies in the past, this funding will specifically finance this project, allowing Phan and her co-investigators to support the several Ph.D and master’s students who will be working on the four-year project.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article said that U.S. Rep. Fatah announced the grants, but that reference has been removed to avoid an unfair connection following his racketeering conviction.

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly said that U.S. Rep. Fattah had awarded the grants. Fattah was not involved with the selection of the projects that will receive funding. The headline has been changed, and the first sentence has been altered and another omitted to communicate that Fattah only announced the grants in a press release. The DP regrets these errors.

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