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Home | Tag Archives: Luis Echegoyen Ph.D.

Tag Archives: Luis Echegoyen Ph.D.

UTEP Professor Elected President of American Chemical Society

A UTEP professor has been elected to the highest leadership position of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific organization.

Luis Echegoyen, Ph.D., a research professor and the Robert A. Welch Chair in The University of Texas at El Paso’s chemistry department, will begin a three-year term during which he will be responsible for the development of a set of goals with corresponding tasks and events while serving as the society’s primary representative.

“I am really honored by this election and look forward to implementing many new and ambitious programs to benefit the ACS and its many members,” Echegoyen said.

Echegoyen said he is elated at the opportunity to influence and improve the lives and careers of his fellow ACS members. He lists several priorities he hopes to work on while in the organization’s top role, including the promotion of inter- and multi-disciplinary education and research. Echegoyen also hopes to advocate for increases in research funding and establish closer ties between industry and academia. In addition, he hopes to increase international partnerships and collaborations.

Echegoyen arrived at UTEP in 2010 after a four-year stint as director of the chemistry division at the National Science Foundation. He was previously the director of UTEP’s Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program. UTEP’s partner in the endeavor is the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). In 2017, the collaboration was recognized among the active PREMs in the United States with a Creativity Extension Award of $666,000 from the NSF.

Echegoyen was also instrumental in bringing Sir Fraser Stoddart, a Nobel laureate and professor of chemistry, to present a public lecture in February 2018 as part of the campus’ Centennial Lecture Series.

In addition, Echegoyen — along with Skye Fortier, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry — was recently awarded a $600,000 grant from the NSF to continue groundbreaking work with endohedral fullerene structures.

The pair’s fundamental research on using Buckminsterfullerenes, or buckyballs — cage-like fused-ring structures of carbon molecules that resemble soccer balls — to house single uranium atoms and uranium clusters, represents the opening salvo of knowledge acquisition in a curiosity driven area of science.

Along with his time at UTEP and the NSF, Echegoyen has more than 40 years of experience in academic institutions, three years in industry and five in government, including stops at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus, Clemson University and the University of Miami.

UTEP Professors Advance Work With Nanocontainers Through $600K NSF Award

Two University of Texas at El Paso professors will continue their groundbreaking work with endohedral fullerene structures through a new $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Luis Echegoyen, Ph.D., a research professor and the Robert A. Welch Chair in UTEP’s chemistry department, is the principal investigator of the award from the NSF’s Chemistry Division Research Center.

Echegoyen is working with Skye Fortier, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to further their fundamental research on using Buckminsterfullerenes, or buckyballs — cage-like fused-ring structures of carbon molecules that resemble soccer balls — to house single uranium atoms and uranium clusters.

Their research represents the opening salvo of knowledge acquisition in a curiosity driven area of science. The work has been ongoing and conducted in conjunction with Ning Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of materials science at Soochow University in China; and Josep M. Poblet, Ph.D., professor of physical chemistry at Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona in Spain.

“This is a clear case of a grant that sponsors a very fundamental idea,” Echegoyen said. “We’re creating a knowledge base. We’re not solving a problem, we’re learning about something that hasn’t been seen before.”

Echegoyen was spurred to begin work in this area at the suggestion of Kenneth Raymond, Ph.D., a professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Echegoyen delivered an address on the potential of buckyballs to house molecular structures, to which Raymond nonchalantly said he should try uranium.

Echegoyen conducted an initial experiment with Chen, who was previously a UTEP postdoctoral fellow, and detected endohedrals — which are atoms enclosed within the inner sphere of a fullerene — and a fundamental knowledge project was born.

Fortier added his expertise in actinide chemistry, which deals with the 15 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers 89-103, and together with their international collaborators, the UTEP pair published a paper in the journal Chemical Science in May 2017, which according to Echegoyen, represents the first evidence of crystallographically characterized uranium endohedrals.

“To have an atom like that sitting inside these cages is really very strange,” Fortier said. “These elements, these metals, they like to grab on and bind to as many things as possible. So, to force them into this bizarre empty cavity, that in itself is amazing. We can start answering the question of, ‘What is the uranium doing?’ It has to have some interaction with the cage. And that’s something we’re still trying to understand.”

Echegoyen said the grant, which is a four-year award, will support student research, materials and some travel. They will also lead a student-outreach effort, which will see 20-25 area middle school students take part in month-long weekend activities to bolster their interest in chemistry.

“This award is not only a testament to the level of research happening at UTEP,” Fortier said. “It is also an opportunity to positively impact our extended community. We have the chance to positively impact younger students and build the next generation of scientists.”

Echegoyen added that piquing young students’ interest now could one day advance the work he and Fortier are conducting. One of the potential applications of the study of endohedrals is, based on their magnetic properties, to create magnetic memory at the single-molecule level.

“That means you can build a memory device or a molecular hard drive with amazing data storage capacity,” Fortier said. “You can do quantum computing and a whole number of other things.”

For now, Echegoyen said, the acquisition of knowledge remains the mission.

“This is fundamental chemistry at its best,” he said. “We’re establishing a basis of knowledge about fundamental bonding properties of actinides inside these unique nanocontainers. This could be potentially useful sometime in the future. In the meantime, we’re learning things that were not known before.”

UTEP Professor Instrumental in Bringing Nobel Laureate to Centennial Lecture Series

Luis Echegoyen, Ph.D., has invited his dear friend to deliver a speech at a university before. But it’s never been this momentous.

The friend in question is Sir Fraser Stoddart.

Stoddart, a Nobel laureate and professor of chemistry, will present a free public lecture Feb. 1, 2018, as part of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Lecture Series.

Stoddart is a board of trustees professor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Bernard L. Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage in 2016 for the design and synthesis of molecular machines. His lecture is titled, “My Journey to Stockholm.”

His visit to UTEP is largely the product of a friendship he formed with Echegoyen, a research professor and the Robert A. Welch Chair in UTEP’s chemistry department, nearly three decades ago when the pair was working in the field of supramolecular chemistry.

Echegoyen said he met Stoddart for the first time during a visit to Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, where the future Nobel winner worked at the University of Sheffield from 1970 to 1990.

“In the 1980s, supramolecular chemistry was big time,” Echegoyen said. “Fraser Stoddart was just getting started. He had worked in industry, making some compounds for applications in agriculture. That’s when I met him. We became good friends.”

Echegoyen said they remained good friends through the years even though he left the field to pursue other opportunities. Echegoyen and his wife, Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D., research associate professor and director of UTEP’s Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives, even invited Stoddart to speak at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, in the mid-1990s when the couple lived there.

The most recent invitation went a bit differently.

Upon learning his friend had won the Nobel Prize, Echegoyen immediately emailed Stoddart to offer his congratulations.

While he waited on Stoddart’s acknowledgement, Echegoyen had a thought: “I should invite him to speak here,” he said. Echegoyen didn’t think a visit to El Paso would be possible given Stoddart’s newfound fame. But he soon would be surprised.

“This time, he replied immediately,” Echegoyen said. “He said, ‘Sure, I’d love to.’”

Months of organizing and planning ensued. Stoddart’s visit to campus will come after stops at Stanford University and in Singapore and Australia. He had to decline another speaking engagement in order to be in El Paso. The result, Echegoyen said, will be a unique opportunity to hear from one of the world’s greatest minds.

“It’s special,” Echegoyen said. “It’s not every day you can hear a Nobel Prize winner speak. I think faculty, students and high school students interested in science will get a lot out of hearing him speak. These Nobel laureates, they are literally superstars. He’s highly sought out. On top of everything, he’s a spectacular speaker. I know he will give a great presentation.”

Stoddart was awarded the prize for work he conducted in 1991 to develop a rotaxane, a mechanically interlocked molecular architecture. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated, “The development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturization of technology can lead to a revolution. The 2016 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have miniaturized machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension.”

Stoddart’s introduction of this new type of bond, known as the mechanical bond, has vaulted chemists to the forefront of the growing field of molecular nanotechnology, with implications ranging all the way from information technology to health care.

Stoddart obtained all his degrees from the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. He spent time at Queen’s University at Kingston in Canada, Imperial Chemical Industries’ corporate laboratory, the University of Sheffield in England and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States in 1997 to work at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he became the Saul Winstein Professor of Chemistry.

In 2007, he was made a Knight Bachelor for his services to chemistry and molecular nanotechnology by Queen Elizabeth II in her New Year’s Honors List. Stoddart is a fellow of the Royal Society of London, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Chemistry. His many awards include the King Faisal International Prize in Science, the Albert Einstein World Prize in Nanotechnology, the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Centennial Lecture Series invites noteworthy speakers to the UTEP campus to share their perspectives on a broad range of contemporary issues that are likely to impact our society, culture and lives in the years ahead.

Make plans

What: Centennial Lecture: “My Journey to Stockholm” by Sir Fraser Stoddart

When: 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018

Where: Undergraduate Learning Center, Room 106, UTEP campus

Author: Pablo Villa – UTEP Communications

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