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About PREM

Objectives

The overarching objectives of the proposed PREM are:

  1. To expand and consolidate a team of experimentalist and theorist 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 material science research and education careers.

Education

  • To attract, recruit, and increase the number of 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 are 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.

Research

Transformative nature of proposed research objectives

  • To explore nanoparticle-based materials including laser-induced aggregation of nanocrystallites, and nanopaticles-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 crystals systems as a low-threshold laser.
  • To explore functionalized nanoporus 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 a materials and deposition methods to improve the mechanical properties of materials capable of shielding electromagnetic interference.

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 institutions in southern Texas, thereby enhancing UTPA's ability to compete for further external funding.

Role of UMN in the Partnership:

A) Given the excellent match in research objectives, UMN primary interaction will consist of technical input, guidance, materials characterization, and physical access to state-of-the-art shared facilities.

  • Eight faculty from UMN will participate representing three (out of four) IRG and a Seed project.
  • UMN faculty will serve in UTPA MS thesis committees.
  • UMN faculty will visit UTPA to present seminars and discuss research with students and faculty (ca. 4 visits per year)
  • UMN will webcast seminars presented by top scientist to UTPA (ca. 10 per year)
  • One UTPA faculty will participate in the annual UMN summer ten-week faculty/student program.
  • B) To provide students with summer research opportunities at UMN

    • UTPA UG students will participate as REUs at UMN (ca. 3 per year)
    • Graduate students will also travel to UMN either through the faculty-student student program or short stays for materials characterization and testing.

    C) A joint annual symposium will be developed and sites will alternate every year. Students will participate through poster and oral presentations.

    D) UMN will invite UTPA faculty to their large industrial Consortium (more than 35 companies) called IPRIME.

    • UTPA faculty will be invited to the Annual Meeting (last week of May each year).
    • Summer internships for UTPA students at IPRIME member companies will be pursued.

        E) UMN will also sponsor one teacher/year of UTPA's district through their NSF-funded RET program. The PREM's resulting center of excellence will be a "regional" resource and supporting U.S. emerging technologies though coherent program collaborative multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, education of minority UG and MS students, human resources development, and knowledge transfer. The proposed center pools the available talent and expertise from various disciplines in engineering and natural sciences to form a coherent research and education center to achieve NSF's mission and strategic goals.