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Home | Tag Archives: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Tag Archives: National Science Foundation (NSF)

$255k NSF Grant to Help UTEP Build ‘Economic Development Ecosystem’

The University of Texas at El Paso has been designated as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) site, and has been awarded a three-year, $255,000 grant by the agency to bridge the colleges of Business Administration and Engineering in fostering and accelerating transition of customer-driven research into the commercial world.

The work to integrate I-Corps’ curriculum, which provides real-world, immersive learning about what it takes to successfully transfer knowledge into products and processes that benefit society, will be carried out by UTEP’s Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce.

“We are excited and elated to have been selected as a National Science Foundation I-Corps site,” said Michael Garcia, lecturer and managing director of the Loya Center as well as the grant’s principal investigator (PI).

“We will be one of three such sites among the 14 University of Texas System institutions. Through this program, we will be able to help our research faculty and students learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research while also gaining skills in entrepreneurship.”

The NSF’s I-Corps program prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond university laboratories and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of basic research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization.

Beginning October 1, graduate research fellows at UTEP will undergo NSF training in aspects of value proposition creation, customer discovery and business models. That knowledge will then be imparted to 20 teams comprised of a principal investigator, an industry mentor and a student entrepreneurial lead.

The curriculum will be augmented into students’ academic settings as they pursue their primary degrees.

“Faculty and students will have to get out of the building and interact with real possible customers to figure out and understand whether their research outcomes and ideas have product-market fit,” said Aaron Cervantes, director of strategic partnerships for the College of Engineering. “It is a difficult and arduous process. But, it is the realistic face of business. The most successful ventures out there are successful because they respond to a customer need. And if we want our faculty and students to excel, we need to provide them with the skills necessary to create customer-driven ventures.”

Cervantes is the grant’s co-PI. He will also be a certified I-Corps instructor. Garcia said he will be part of the effort to seed critical components of innovation and an economic development ecosystem in the El Paso region.

“We see other cities that are doing so well with regard to economic development,” Garcia said. “These cities, particularly with the startup community, have this really strong, entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem that provides strong support and education in funding, mentorship and funding for startups. We really need that here in El Paso. If we want to move our city forward economically, I-Corps is precisely the kind of thing that we need. It is a really strong step in the right direction.”

UTEP Engineering Professor Duo Awarded $393K NSF Grant

A pair of engineering professors from The University of Texas at El Paso will address the need to develop faculty who are adept at effective teaching strategies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Benjamin Flores, Ph.D., professor and director of The University of Texas System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, was named the principal investigator of the NSF award worth $393,601 with co-PI Heidi Taboada-Jimenez, Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering.

The duo will work on the effort, which is part of a broader NSF initiative — the Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program.

“We are grateful and thrilled to be selected as recipients of this National Science Foundation grant,” Flores said. “From what we have seen, there is a need to develop future faculty who are well-trained in teaching strategies that can positively impact undergraduate students enrolled in community colleges. What we plan to do is to implement a sustainable program to make graduate students keenly aware of career opportunities at community colleges. Many of our graduate students have a passion for teaching and we want to provide guidance for that passion. So, if they do decide to pursue careers at community colleges, they will have the right tools to hit the ground running.”

Flores and Taboada-Jimenez will use the five-year grant to harness an already existing network dedicated to promoting best practices in teaching. The pair will work closely with The University of Texas at Arlington in the formation of two regional cooperatives (RCs) in Texas.

Through the RCs, graduate students will be paired with professors to form a mentor-protégé team that exposes students to best practices in teaching and its applications at the college level.

Flores said he hopes this effort will eventually result in a faculty that better reflects the diverse student populations that begin their higher education journeys at community colleges.

“We know that a majority of Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans and other minority groups that decide to pursue higher education are starting that journey at community colleges,” Flores said. “It becomes clear to us that we need to ensure we have a full understanding of their challenges as students. One of the historical roadblocks is that the educational system doesn’t necessarily consider the diversity of our STEM population background that impacts their success. We want to make sure that our graduate students who are thinking about academic careers learn the best teaching practices, developed and tested over time.”

Flores said that over time, the hiring of a more diverse and well-prepared teaching faculty will improve science and math community college courses and curricula, bolstering their compatibility with four-year programs.

“We’re looking forward to working with our collaborators,” Flores said. “We have at least six community colleges, including El Paso Community College, which we are reaching out to throughout the state. Our joint efforts are really going to make the difference.”

UTEP Awarded $4m Grant, Will Establish Center for Materials Research

The University of Texas at El Paso will establish a new federally-funded center focused on energy and biomaterials after being named a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) award totaling nearly $4 million.

The NSF announced Aug. 7, 2018, that UTEP was awarded a new Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) grant aimed at fostering next-generation materials research by a team of faculty with engineering and science students from diverse backgrounds, through collaborations with an existing NSF-funded center at another institution. To this end, the new award will support a research collaboration between UTEP and the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

The collaboration will move forward as the PREM Center for Advanced Materials Research with a focus on energy and biomaterials in its mission to enhance the participation and advanced degree attainment of underrepresented minority students in materials science and engineering.

“We are pleased and proud to receive this highly competitive NSF award,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “This PREM partnership will enhance UTEP’s success in recruiting and retaining highly talented students and preparing them for participation and leadership roles in materials research across the U.S. We look forward to continuing our exciting collaboration with the University of California, Santa Barbara, pairing the strengths of UTEP faculty and student researchers with the expertise and diverse perspectives of our UCSB collaborators.”

The program will foster the growth of collaborative research teams united through Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC)-style Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs). These would be interdisciplinary teams comprised of faculty from science and engineering from both UTEP and UCSB.

“This new PREM Center, led by Dr. Ramana Chintalapalle, is an important recognition of the ongoing materials research at UTEP that can contribute to areas of critical need in energy and biomaterials,” said Theresa Maldonado, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering.

“Furthermore, there are already existing collaborations with scholars at UC Santa Barbara, and the PREM award will strengthen and accelerate these efforts with an important focus on developing our students with the research training needed to contribute to materials development throughout their careers. Finally, PREM is an opportunity for UTEP to lead this overall effort.”

“The PREM Center for Energy and Biomaterials will provide students a number of opportunities,” said Chintalapalle, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering and the new UTEP PREM center’s director.

“The caliber of the educational experience UTEP students receive will be enhanced by hands-on laboratory experiences, research mentoring, professional development, research seminars, joint UTEP-UCSB workshops and student exchanges. This is in line with the PREM mission of advancing degree attainment of underrepresented minority students in materials science and engineering.”

The program would focus its research in its two namesake areas of materials science, with the overarching objective being the investigation of the complexities of high-quality, nanostructured oxides and understanding the interplay between synthesis, surface/interface chemistry, and photothermal effects of nano and biomaterials.

Housing these IRGs in one research center unifies the cutting-edge materials research programs at UTEP and nurtures true interdisciplinary interactions. The formation of a PREM center also streamlines input and collaborative contributions with UCSB, thus adjoining two productive materials science research centers.

“The United States benefits from greater innovation and a more diverse materials workforce, one that will drive cutting-edge innovations in the decades to come,” said Linda Sapochak, director of NSF’s Division of Materials Research. “Now in its second decade, PREM brings innovative research teams that may lack the resources of larger institutions into fully reciprocal collaborations with some of NSF’s leading materials research facilities.”

The new class of awardees will receive support for six years. Since its launch in 2004, PREM has successfully diversified research faculty while improving the likelihood that participating students will go on to complete a doctorate in materials research. The initiative has yielded a wide range of results with applications from potential cancer treatments to novel solar cells.

 

UTEP Student, Alumni Recognized by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded its prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship to one current and one former UTEP student. The NSF received more than 12,000 applications and made 2,000 award offers.

UTEP student Marisol Dominguez was awarded in the category of Geosciences-Hydrology. UTEP alumnus Oswaldo Raudel Avila, who is currently attending Northwestern University, was awarded in the category of Mechanical Engineering.

UTEP alumnus Ramon Benitez, who now attends Virginia Tech, received an honorable mention.

“We are proud of these current and former students for attaining this prestigious recognition,” said UTEP Vice President for Research Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D. “These awards can have a transformative impact on the recipients’ research and career trajectory, and these recognitions demonstrate that UTEP students can compete with the best minds around the country.”

The program recognizes outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

Marisol Dominguez, Awardee (UTEP)

Marisol Dominguez, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a concentration in hydroscience from UTEP, is pursuing a Ph.D. in geology with a concentration in hydrology at the University.

Dominguez is working with Hugo Gutiérrez-Jurado, Ph.D., assistant professor of geological sciences, on a project that aims to classify the regions in the world that are at risk for water shortage using an equation called the Hydrologic Sensitivity Index. She says she is pursuing her doctoral studies at UTEP because it is the perfect environment to conduct such research. She hopes to apply what she learns to water conservation efforts in the region.

“I am pursuing my Ph.D. at UTEP because I know that I can accomplish so much here,” she said. “With this funding, I have the freedom to decide how to conduct my research, which will let me work more effectively. I feel privileged to work alongside all the faculty and students in the geological sciences department who have had a strong influence in my career path.”

Raudel Oswaldo Avila, Awardee (Northwestern University)

Raudel Oswaldo Avila graduated from UTEP with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. During his successful undergraduate years, he worked on a variety of research projects, earned an Honorable Mention from the Graduate Research Fellowship Program in 2017, and was named one of the Top Ten Seniors in his class.

His research at Northwestern University deals with stretchable electronics. These electronics can create sensors in wearable technology, such as a FitBit or AppleWatch, that can integrate with the body. The intent is to create an enhanced bio-integrated health monitoring system using computer-aided engineering that can predict sensor mechanic behavior when it is implanted in the body.

Avila said his graduate research is a new application of the method he started studying his junior year at UTEP, where he received guidance from Pavana Prabakhar, Ph.D., Jack Chessa, Ph.D., and Ashan Choudhuri, Ph.D. Now that he has secured funding through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, he sees the potential impact it could have on his career.

“It gives me a lot of flexibility and freedom to conduct the research that I want,” Avila said. “This award not only funds the research for the next three years, it also gives it prestige.”

Ramon Benitez, Honorable Mention (Virginia Tech)

Ramon Benitez, who graduated from UTEP with a degree in metallurgical and materials engineering, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering education at Virginia Tech.

At UTEP, he studied materials engineering with Thomas Boland, Ph.D. and Binata Joddar, Ph.D., and worked on research focused on hydrogels for cardiac tissues. His original research interests were related to how engineering can help individuals. He has expanded on this concept to explore how engineering can impact society.

Benitez, who is studying how to teach future engineers to better serve society’s needs, says his time at UTEP was instrumental in placing him in his Ph.D. program. He hopes to return to El Paso to implement his research and help his community.

“From childhood, UTEP set me up on this pathway, and I realized as a graduate that it does that for other El Pasoans,” Benitez said. “I want to help others tap into that.”

Past fellows include U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

El Paso Community College Reports STEM Education Scholarship Success

El Paso Community College (EPCC), is proud to announce the success of the Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program.

“We are proud to share with all of you that our S-STEM Program was able to exceed its original goal to provide educational opportunities to economically and culturally diverse students,” said Dr. Fariba Ansari, Physics Instructor at EPCC. “In a six-year period length and under a friendly environment, our team of professionals was able to reach out students who took advantage of the opportunities offered.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) since fall of 2011 and has been supporting students’ financial and educational needs.

The first S-STEM scholarship under the title of “Science and Mathematics Success Program” began in August 2011 in the amount of $596,546, by the NSF who sought to give EPCC a fresh start with quality scholarship.

Thanks to the collaboration of participating faculty, counselors, grant office advisors and financial aid officers the program was able to serve a total of 79 students through activities promoting the STEM fields and through financial support.

The S-STEM Program is a collaborative project between EPCC, UTEP and NMSU which helps students stay on track to achieve maximum education.

For more information, visit the S-STEM web page, contact Dr. Fariba Ansari at fansari@epcc.edu or call (915) 831-2627.

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