NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A recent $497,346 grant from the National Science Foundation will make way for critically needed upgrades to Stephen F. Austin State University's cyber infrastructure network, allowing the university to greatly advance capacity and knowledge in data-driven research across a variety of STEM disciplines - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The upgrades will enhance both graduate and undergraduate curricula and increase student participation in data-intensive research across the campus. By mitigating challenges related to the campus' geographic isolation from other major research centers in the state, the advanced networking capabilities also will allow SFA researchers to collaborate much more effectively with other institutions and to drastically increase the availability of SFA research and data to other researchers and entities.

"These upgrades will directly allow for the growth of research and education activities, helping place SFA at the forefront of higher education in Texas," said Michael Coffee, one of the grant's principal investigators.

This is not the first time the university has received grant funding from the NSF. According to the SFA Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, the university has received NSF grants totaling more than $8 million since 2001.

"I very much appreciate the support of the NSF and the confidence they have shown in SFA," Coffee said. "I look forward to the completion of these upgrades and their utilization in the academic, research and outreach missions of our university."

The new fiber optic installations made possible by the grant will increase SFA's network speed 10-fold, according to Dr. Dan Bruton, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and another of the grant's principal investigators. Dr. David Cook, principal investigator and associate professor of computer science, added the upgrades will give students access to state-of-the-art technologies that "further the practical aspect of their educational experience.

"In the Department of Computer Science, in particular, the increased computing and networking capabilities will allow us to pursue research in network and data security, distributed architectures and processing, and parallel processing," Cook said.

Dr. Kimberly Childs, dean of SFA's College of Sciences and Mathematics, said the heightened technological capacity will allow faculty members to attract more students to participate in their research while increasing the usefulness of the university's various remote laboratories and research centers.

"This infusion of technology will have even broader, societal impacts because of the opportunity for enhanced collaboration on research in a wide range of STEM disciplines," she said.

"At SFA, we are deeply invested in the national call for reform in STEM education, and these upgrades will allow faculty members across the university to contribute at a much higher level to the knowledge and research base within the STEM disciplines," she said. "At the same time, these improvements will reinforce our outreach and recruitment efforts designed to encourage and prepare students to enter STEM careers - the key to our long-term security and prosperity as a nation."