The PREM partnership between the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) will have a significant impact on students and local communities. The overall vision of this partnership is to promote and enhance the participation and advanced degree attainment of underrepresented minority (URM) students in materials science and engineering. The UTEP-UCSB PREM will promote scientific excellence through a collective of collaborative research teams following the MRSEC-style Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) model. The PREM IRGs have been assembled as tight-knit, interdisciplinary teams from across Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering at UTEP, and with affiliate members from UCSB. The PREM IRGs address diverse topics and challenges in materials science, utilizing the talents of the faculty and student researchers at UTEP while leveraging the expertise and perspective of the UCSB collaborators. The PREM Center comprises of two IRGs that are focused broadly on (i) IRG1-Energy, and (ii) IRG2-Biomaterials, with subgroups within each. The focus within each IRG is on understanding the interplay between synthesis, surface/interface chemistry, material properties and photo-thermal effects in nanomaterials and biomaterials. Collaborative contributions from UCSB will provide opportunities for two collaborative materials science research centers to promote excellence in materials science and engineering research. The UTEP PREM program will provide excellent education, training and research opportunities to students from historically URM groups by providing a number of new opportunities for hands-on laboratory experience, research mentoring, professional development, research seminars, joint UTEP/UCSB workshops, and student exchanges. In addition to accelerating scientific excellence, the PREM Center will also foster mentoring of junior and mid-career faculty. Expanding into a PREM Center and forming strong UTEP-UCSB connections, the UTEP PREM will not only impact within the region but will strengthen education in the study and research of advanced materials and contribute to the workforce development in materials science and engineering.
The overall vision of the UTEP-UCSB PREM Center is to promote and enhance the participation and advanced degree attainment of URM students, mainly Hispanics, in materials science and engineering. To accomplish the vision and goals, the UTEP-UCSB PREM will aim at providing opportunities to underrepresented and underserved students, notably minority, women, and persons with disabilities. The PREM will continue to offer excellent research and education opportunities to the students of Paseo del Norte region and continue to support the UTEP’s mission of “access and excellence.” The longer term vision is to establish a strong research culture at UTEP by gathering a network of complementary and closely knit engineers and scientists of the highest professional and ethical caliber. To accomplish this vision, we have established a UTEP/UCSB consortium that will lead to scientific excellence in materials research for energy and biomaterial applications and to the education of a cadre of minority scientists/engineers in this field. The UTEP-UCSB PREM will adopt a synergistic, multidisciplinary research approach to advance the basic understanding of the interfacial structure, physics, and chemistry and to study defects and dopants in order to improve the materials’ performance in energy and biosciences. The PREM center is comprised of two primary Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRG) and topics in order to foster a diverse, innovative, and multifaceted research center that addresses a range of outstanding challenges in materials science. The PREM center will focus on two main areas: a) IRG1-Energy, and b) IRG2-Biomaterials. Prof. Ramana from UTEP and Prof. Seshadri from UCSB will lead this institutional partnership in which nine UTEP and eight UCSB scientists and engineers (chemistry, materials, physics, and electrical and mechanical engineering) form collaborative IRGs. The specific research topics in IRG1-Energy include: i) Multilayered, Transparent Electrodes, ii) Uranium-Based Compounds, and (iii) Multifunctional Oxides. Within IRG1, the overarching objectives include investigating the science and engineering of high quality multifunctional oxides, oxide/metal/oxide multilayered films, and actinide oxide semiconductors. In the context of IRG2-Biomaterials, the focus will be on: i) Development of Biomimetic Scaffolds for 3D Tissue, and ii) Photothermal Nanomaterials for High-Efficiency Biomass Conversion. The objectives of IRG2 include understanding the interplay between synthesis, surface/interface chemistry, and photothermal effects of nano and biomaterials. Housing these IRGs under a PREM center umbrella unifies the cutting-edge material science research programs at UTEP and nurtures true interdisciplinary interactions. The formation of a PREM center also streamlines input and collaborative contributions from UCSB, thus adjoining two productive materials science research centers. Also, the world-class instrument facilities at UCSB will enable and catalyze the exploration of the basic science of functional inorganic and bio-materials and provide unique opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas, mentoring, and multidisciplinary training.