Sims receives grant

Hunter Sims, assistant professor of physics, recently became a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

NSF awarded Sims $101,854 for research from money that has been set aside specifically for research. The grant also includes enough money to allow a student of Sim’s choosing to research alongside him.

This grant will provide coverage for the next two years to purchase different software and technology needed to complete the research.

Sims said he will be conducting his research with a colleague from Oak Ridge National Lab that he worked with prior to coming to FMU.

Sims will be taking some students or a student from FMU physics department to the lab later next year due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

“We probably won’t get to go there this summer, which is unfortunate,” Sims said. “But hopefully we will get there next summer at least.”

Sims applied through NSF under the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, which is geared toward facilitating competitive research.

Sims said he went through the fourth track of EPCoR’s Research Infrastructure Initiative (RII), which allocates money directly for a professor to complete research. However, Sims said that professors asking for money in their grants for a student is expected, yet sometimes still gets declined.

EPSCoR is a program that works to give money to states that don’t receive much funding from the NSF.

“There are like 28 states that get less than a percent of the NSF budget,” Sims said. “A lot of them go to places like California, New York, Massachusetts and some of those places.”

Sims said the EPSCoR program doesn’t just seek out smaller schools. He said his application was competing with larger schools such as Clemson and USC.

“I will say that it probably appeals more to smaller schools, but at the same time it was not just for schools like Francis Marion,” Sims said.

Sims’ area of study is computational physics and material science. He said his study of expertise focuses on solving equations that could be used to find out the different properties of a material.

“What I study is more like the electronic and magnetic properties of materials,” Sims said. “So, basically, whether something is going to be a conductor or insulator and whether it is magnetic or not.”

Sims said his research will focus specifically on a superconducting material, which is something that will allow electricity to pass through without any resistance when it is below a certain temperature.

Through his research, he hopes to find a way to bring superconductors to the point of working at room temperature in everyday conditions. This would make it cheaper to generate electricity.

The physics department is looking for students who are at least in their junior and senior years of college. Sims said he has already had students who are interested in doing research with him.

Sims said there is a research course that is offered in the physics department and one of the students taking that course with him would be joining him this summer to begin research.

The grant will give Sims the opportunity to continue doing research past the two years the grant covers with the software he will buy with the grant money.