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Program Highlights

UPRM to Start Undergraduate Certificate on Materials Science and Engineering

April 17, 2008

Scientific and technological progress of our society demands the development of new materials as well as the optimization of the properties in those materials of actual use; materials–related issues are present in all types of industries. Therefore, the formation of professionals with an effective background in the understanding of science and engineering concepts behind materials utilization and performance becomes indispensable.

UPRM PREM Students Win First Prizes at TMS Annual Meeting

March 14, 2008

First Prize Undegraduate SMDThree posters presented by University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez PREM students during the TMS Annual Meeting held in New Orleans in March 2008 received First Prizes during the poster competition. The corresponding departmental affiliation of the students reflects the inherent interdisciplinary nature that has fostered this PREM project.

PREM Participants from High School Published Paper in IEEE Sensor Journal

February 19, 2008

NSET probe box, In this paper we have reported development and evaluation of a miniaturized, inexpensive and battery operated ultra-sensitive nanomaterial based fluorescence resonance energy transfer (NSET) probe shown in Figure 1.

Gold nanoparticle-based miniaturized NSET Probe for rapid and ultra-sensitive detection of mercury in soil, water and fish

February 19, 2008

Illustration for Gold nanoparticle-based miniaturized NSET Probe Contamination of the environment with mercury has been an important concern throughout the world for decades. Human exposure to high Hg levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages.

UPRM PREM Highlighted in Major Hispanic Newspaper

January 28, 2008

The achievements of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez PREM were highlighted in the January 25th, 2007 issue of El Nuevo Día (END). This is the largest Puerto Rican newspaper (est. circulation 250,000) and one of the largest Hispanic dailies in the US. The article titled "Fascinated by the Future Made Present" was also incorporated in END's online version with enhanced photographs and a slide show. The body of the text (in Spanish) underscores the broader impact of the project in local public schools, students and teachers. While most of the college students interviewed are first-generation ones, the high school ones are either participating in scientific fairs or in the Materials Science & Engineering clubs established under PREM's umbrella.
El Nuevo Dia

UPRM PREM Professor Receives Presidential Award

November 8, 2007

UPRM PREM Prof. Carlos Rinaldi who in 2006 received the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award was one of the 20 NSF nominees who received the US government's highest honor for scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers: The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Materials Student Chapter Spotlighted in International Professional Publication

October 31, 2007

The Material Advantage Chapter of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM), founded under the auspice of UPRM PREM, received a spotlight on the October 2007 issue of JOM. This is published by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society and is distributed globally. The 2-column spotlight underscores the impact of the UPRM chapter on advancing awareness on Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and on sustaining a successful professional organization.


September 14, 2007

materia extrana humacao 3.JPG
In October – December 2007, PREM will bring Strange Matter to Casa Roig Museum Humacao, Puerto Rico.
See more details at

Smart Materials for Manipulating Cell/Surface and Cell/Cell Interactions

July 25, 2007

Poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide) (pNIPAM) undergoes a sharp property change in response to a moderate temperature drop. When the polymer is maintained above its lower critical solution temperature (LCST, ~32 °C), most biological cells are observed to adhere. However, below its LCST, confluent cell sheets are found to detach intact--and without the use of harsh treatments usually required for cell removal.

This “smart” behavior has generated great interest in the biomaterials community.
Previously, we demonstrated radio frequency (rf) plasma to be a one-step, solvent-free surface modification method that is compatible with any surface chemistry or geometry. These characteristics make this technique useful for cell and tissue culture, which often rely on plastic tissue culture plates.

Charge and Spin Transport and Symmetry Broken State in Graphene

June 18, 2007

We reproduce the recent experimentally discovered odd integer quantum Hall effect in graphene
The bottom image reveals a stripe order and symmetry broken state in higher Dirac Landau levels

Small projects involved in this research are used in a new course taught at CSUN by Dr. Sheng (PHYS 466) for undergraduate students, where density of states, edge states, and effect of Hubbard interaction for electrons were looked at by students in class.

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Anomalous Bias Dependence of Spin Torque in Magnetic Tunnel Junctions

June 18, 2007

When a spin polarized current passes through a magnetic multilayer structure, it can transfer spin angular momentum from one ferromagnet to another, and hence exert a torque on the magnetic moments of the electrodes. At sufficiently high current densities, this spin transfer torque can even reverse the magnetization of an individual domain.
We predicted an anomalous bias dependence of the spin transfer torque parallel to the interface in magnetic tunnel junctions, which can be selectively tuned by the exchange splitting. It may exhibit as sign reversal, as shown in the figure to the right, without a corresponding sign reversal of the bias. We demonstrated that the underlying mechanism is the interplay of spin currents for the ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic configurations, which exhibit different bias behavior. (Published in Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 237205 (2006).)

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First Prizes in TMS 2007 Student Posters Competition

March 29, 2007

During its 2007 Annual Meeting held in Orlando, FL (Feb. 25 - March 2) The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) hosted their Technical Division Student Posters Contest. The competition included five technical categories. Two PREM undergraduate students won first prizes their corresponding technical divisions.

Molecular Dynamics Simulations of DNA- Covered Carbon Nanotubes

March 23, 2007

Myrna Merced Serrano*, José O. Sotero Esteva, UPR-Humacao Robert Johnson**, A.T. Johnson, U. of. Pennsylvania
* Undergraduate Student (sophomore) ** Graduate Student

A FET device made with a single wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) decorated with single-strand DNA (ss-DNA) has shown potential for use as a gas sensor.

Using Molecular Dynamics simulation to study the interaction between ss-DNA and SWCNTs.

Studying the way in which the ss-DNA adsorbs onto a SWCNT as a function of the length of the strand (Click on Nanotube to see animation).

Nanotubes for the Future

March 4, 2007

In February 2007, UPRM PREM hosted more than 140 students, members of the five Materials Science and Engineering clubs formed in public schools under the auspices of PREM. The activity was organized by PREM’s Office of Outreach and Education led by Prof. J. Santos and was partly financed by UPRM Chancellor’s office. It took place in the Rafael A. Mangual Coliseum, the largest UPRM venue. The students were welcomed by Dr. Jorge I. Vélez Arocho, UPRM Chancellor and Dr. Ramón Vázquez, Dean of Engineering. Two PREM high school students, Coraly Sotomayor and Nayomi Plaza were the MCs of the event. The students were briefly introduced to the basics of carbon nanotubes by Prof. Oscar Perales and to the geometry of the construct by Prof. Luis A. Rivera (Engineering Graphics professor). During the activity all students (from three different cities: Mayagüez, Aguada and Cabo Rojo) have the opportunity to interact with each other.

Gold Nanoparticle Based FRET Asssay for Detection of DNA Cleavage

March 2, 2007

This represents the first nanoparticle-based fluorescence assay for probing single-strand DNA nuclease activity. Our simple assay with extremely high sensitivity will make it widely applicable and highly useful for convenient characterization of DNA/RNA cleavage reactions Given the simplicity, speed, and sensitivity of this approach, the described methodology could easily be extended to a high throughput format and become a new method of choice in HIV proteases and matrix metalloproteases (MMP) as well as the proteins involved in cellular apoptosis

Very Large Infrared Two-Photon Absorption Cross Section of Asymmetric Zinc Porphyrin Aggregates: Role of Intermolecular Interaction and Donor-Acceptor Strengths

March 2, 2007

One of the long-standing challenges is the development of organic compounds, which exhibits a large value of the 2PA cross section at wavelength(s) above 700 nm. We have designed a series of D-A Zn-porphyrin aggregates that possess exceptionally large Two Photon Absorption (TPA) cross sections at the desirable fundamental wavelengths of 1.1-1.5 m, which can be highly suitable candidates for the applications in biological imaging and photon dynamic therapy.

Molecules that Like Each Other

February 9, 2007

Circular-dichroism-spectra.JPG Scientists who understand the nature of a stabilizing force between molecules, or between parts of the same molecule, can incorporate this force systematically into the design of new materials. This molecular engineering can result in unique and beneficial stability or functionality. The McCurdy group at CSULA strives to generate new knowledge about a specific stabilizing force in protein-like molecules that will guide the development of materials with useful properties.

Magnetic Bead Assays

February 9, 2007

Certain antibiotics bind to specific receptors on bacterial cell walls blocking further growth and eventually leading to the bacterial death. Dr. Menake Piyasena (PREM Post-doc fellow) at CSULA has demonstrated a bead-based technique on a microfluidic format that can be used to monitor bacteria-antibiotic interactions. Proof of concept studies utilized a fluorescent dye labeled peptide that resembled the bacterial cell wall and the antibiotic teicoplanin which was covalently immobilized onto magnetic beads. In a microfluidic channel made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), teicoplanin-coated magnetic beads were packed and the binding of injected fluorescent peptide was monitored via fluorescent microscopy. The antibiotic-peptide interaction was further confirmed by flow cytometry and fluorometry. The concept we have developed can be used to monitor bacterial interactions with other drugs and also as a device for pathogen detection.