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University of Texas, Pan American - University of Minnesota MRSEC PREM

The UTPA team envisions the PREM program to be a formal venue to “facilitate the development of formal long term materials research and education relationships” with a DMR center and to develop a formal interaction of Materials Science faculty from several departments within the College of Science and Engineering (COSE) through the development of a Materials Science Center. This interdisciplinary center will pool the resources of talented junior faculty from COSE into the development of materials, devices and system analysis. The UTPA/UMN partnership will provide, inter alia, technical expertise, access to a broad range of instrumentation for advanced materials characterization, student and faculty exchanges, seminars, and access to industrial collaboration.


The overarching objectives of the proposed PREM are: 1) To expand and consolidate a team of experimentalists and theorists at UTPA into a sustainable Center of Excellence that can support widely recognized materials science research in a Hispanic serving institution; 2) Provide junior faculty with a research platform to start or promote their materials science research and education careers; and 3) Establish synergistic research collaborations between UTPA and UMN. Specifically, the objectives are addressed in three areas: research, education and outreach. A) Transformative nature of proposed research objectives

  • To explore nanoparticle-based materials including laser-induced aggregation of nanocrystallites, and nanoparticles-in-photonic crystal materials systems for application in photovoltaic solar cells.
  • To explore soluble conjugated polymers for spin-processable, low cost, plastic light emitters, and to explore conjugated-polymer-in-photonic crystal systems as a low-threshold laser.
  • To explore functionalized nanoporous materials for the application of mechanical - to - interfacial energy conversion.
  • To develop self-healing polymeric materials with block copolymers as key ingredients to ultimately produce smart flexible materials.
  • To explore the science of nanoreinforced polymeric composite (NRPC)-thin film and metal-thin film (made of NRPC) interface through a combination of materials and deposition methods to improve the mechanical properties of materials capable of shielding electromagnetic interference.

B) Education

  • To attract, recruit, and increase the number of minority students at both undergraduate and M.S. levels to pursue careers in materials science and engineering;
  • To provide students with the knowledge, skills and abilities needed in the materials science area through state of the art research opportunities, workshops, and mentoring;
  • To raise awareness of materials science careers as a route to meet current technological and societal challenges; C) Outreach
  • To raise awareness of materials science and engineering in the K-12 community by involving students in summer research programs (9th-12th grade), by providing week -long sessions of materials science in existing Upward Bound, GearUp and TexPrep programs, and by presenting materials science sessions to K-12 students.
  • To raise awareness of materials science and engineering issues among K-12 teachers.
  • To improve UTPA’s research, academic, and community infrastructure, to promote long term growth and sustainability of an outstanding research and teaching institution in southern Texas, thereby enhancing UTPA’s ability to compete for further external funding.
Principal Investigator : 
Karen Lozano, Professor, Julia Beecherl Endowed Chair