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For Faculty

The Nonwovens Institute (NWI) accepts research proposals from NC State University faculty, as well as faculty from other universities in the United States and worldwide. Funded projects fall into the TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 1-4 categories and are focused on fundamental research that is designed to benefit the nonwovens industry. Support for NWI's core research comes from NWI membership dues; augmented by the Institute's state-appropriated funding.

How to Get Involved

NWI funds new nonwovens-relevant research projects every year. Proposals must be submitted in accordance with the timeline and the processes outlined below.

Proposals are selected and reviewed during NWI’s May Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) meetings. Successful projects will start at the beginning of the Fall semester (approx. mid-August). The duration of each project is either two years for a Master’s Degree student or three years for a Doctoral Degree student.

NWI typically issues funding in the following research thrust areas:

  • Materials and Materials Characterization
    • what to use, and how to analyze
  • Polymer Processing and Extrusion
    • how to make
  • Engineered Structures
    • what to make
  • Micro and Macro Modeling
    • structure-property-process modeling, performance modeling, etc…
  • Sustainability
    • recycled materials; alternative materials; lowered carbon footprint

Each thrust area is led by an industry focus group. The focus groups identify knowledge gaps and recommend relevant research topics. These serve as a “catalyst” for faculty to create research proposals that are relevant, basic, fundamental in nature aimed at identifying solutions that address the identified knowledge gaps. 

To request a copy of the NWI community’s research topics slide deck, please email Tom Daugherty, NWI’s deputy director, at This document contains both a menu of topics by title, industry contacts for further discussion, as well as a full-page outline of each research topic organized in each of the five research thrust areas listed above.

While it is the Principal Investigators (PIs) responsibility to craft “basic research problems” and “demonstration examples,” experience shows the most successful proposals tend to focus on leveraging multiple discussions with experts to vet ideas and get more precise with the problem definition, with potential approaches and solutions, and with understanding demonstration opportunities. We encourage PIs to take advantage of discussions with industry volunteers and with NWI staff (contact Tom Daugherty at to learn of available industry contacts).

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Proposal Timeline and Process

  1. PI Selects Topic(s) and Responds to NWI (est. Nov.): Share PI selected topics with NWI by email (, or to enable “front-end” discussion.
  2. PI Begins Researching and Writing Proposal: As soon as topic(s) are selected, the PI can begin working on the proposal using the “Proposal Guidelines and Template document” (see below).
  3. NWI Schedules Front-End Meeting with PI: Nov. to mid-Jan. Focus is to share background and ideas to define the fundamental research problem and approach.
  4. NWI to Provide PIs with the new Work Breakdown Structure and new Budget Guidelines (est. Dec.): Both will be incorporated into the “Proposal Guidelines and Template document” and distributed early Dec.
  5. PI Submits a Draft Full Proposal to NWI (by mid-Feb): NWI and industry members will review and provide feedback.
  6. NWI and Industry Members Provide Feedback to PI (est. Mar.):
  7. PI Submits Final Full Proposal to NWI (est. Apr.):
  8. NWI Circulates Final Proposals to Industrial Advisory Board (IAB): IAB reviews (April/May) and selects proposals for awards by industry member vote, and by Strategic Scientific Advisory Board (SSAB) recommendation to the Executive Committee (May/Jun).
  9. PIs are Notified of Proposal Outcome: Executive Committee approves final awards by June.
  10. Parallel Paths to Project (FYI only): Per the Bylaws, SSAB and Custom Core project selection pathways also remain intact. The SSAB reviews proposals and submits a recommendation for funding (up to 30% of available budget) to the Executive Committee for funding. Separately, Level 1 Full Members can select a Custom Core topic, prepare a proposal with NWI and a PI recruited by NWI, and NWI will start the project when pre-work is complete.

Although a significant number of research projects are based at NC State University, NWI has funded research at the University of Loughborough, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, University of Tennessee, the University of Chicago at Illinois, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland and many others.

A team project approach and inter-university proposals are encouraged. Research proposals are ranked for funding by the Industrial Advisory Board; projects with top ranking are screened by the IAB Executive Committee and funded as the budget permits.

Up to 30% of the proposals are selected by the Strategic Scientific Advisory Board (SSAB) made up of industrial, academic, and government representatives.  They base their decision on how well the proposal is aligned to NWI’s research thrust areas.

The remaining 70% of proposals are selected based on membership votes. It is our experience that proposals aligned with they stated member companies’ needs and developed with representatives of one or more of those companies have a greater chance of obtaining member votes.

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Proposal Structure and Budget

All proposals must adhere to the following guidelines; any proposal that does not follow the guidelines will not be put forward to the members for review.

A typical budget for an NWI research project is about $50,000 per year for two or three years. Please review the guidelines below and follow this template for preparing your proposal. Proposals from institutions other than NC State must waive the overhead (F&A ) for the project to be considered.

Format: All proposals must be submitted in PDF Format

These funds are provided for the support of a Master’s student (2 years) or a Ph.D. student (3 years). The work must lead to a thesis or dissertation on the topic proposed. NWI does not fund research associates and does not fund contract research.

The projects are reviewed twice per year by the NWI Industrial Advisory Board, and failure to make sufficient progress or failure to meet the deadlines for project report submission will result in the termination of the project.

Proposals should be submitted in PDF format to Subject line should read: NWI Research Proposal.

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Documentation for Faculty and PIs

NWI’s Current Faculty and PIs:

Morton Barlaz Ph.D.

Distinguished University Professor, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, NC State University

Ruben Carbonell Ph.D.

Frank Hawkins Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State University

Mehmet Dasdemir Ph.D.

Director of Product Development, The Nonwovens Institute

Kirill Efimenko Ph.D.

Associate Research Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, NC State University

Ericka Ford Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Wilson College of Textiles, Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, NC State University

Jan Genzer Ph.D.

S. Frank & Doris Culberson Distinguished Professor, NC State University

Nicole Hashemi Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University

Lilian Hsiao Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, NC State University

Saad Khan Ph.D.

INVISTA Professor & Director of Graduate Program, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, NC State University

Arun Kumar Kota Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NC State University

Jun Liu Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NC State University

Benoit Maze Ph.D.

Director of Education and Administration, The Nonwovens Institute

Lokendra Pal Ph.D.

EJ Woody Rice Professor of Sustainable Materials and Engineering, Department of Forest Biomaterials, NC State University

Mark Pankow Ph.D.

Adjunct Faculty, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NC State University

Joel Pawlak Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Forest Biomaterials, NC State University

Kara Peters Ph.D.

Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NC State University

Behnam Pourdeyhimi Ph.D.

Executive Director, The Nonwovens Institute

Eunkyoung Shim Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, NC State University

Tolou Shokuhfar Ph.D.

Associate Professor, College of Engineering and Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago

Sindee Simon Ph.D.

Head, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, NC State University

Richard Spontak Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, NC State University

Hooman Tafreshi Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NC State University

Christina Tang Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Life Sciences Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

Orlin Velev Ph.D.

S. Frank and Doris Culberson Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, NC State University

Richard Venditti Ph.D.

Elis-Signe Olsson Professor of Pulp and Paper Science and Technology, Forest Biomaterials, NC State University

Alexander Yarin Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois Chicago

Hong Zhao Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

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If you have questions about NWI or our service offering, please contact us at