Tuesday , August 22 2017
Home | Tag Archives: National Science Foundation

Tag Archives: National Science Foundation

UTEP Assistant Professor Awarded $383k Grant for Study of Iron, Nitrogen

The National Science Foundation has awarded Skye Fortier, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, $383,000 over three years to take a closer look at the chemistry of iron and nitrogen.

Specifically, the project is developing new molecular architectures to access, trap, and study reactive iron-nitrogen molecules. The goals are to shed light on the steps of the nitrogen fixation cycle and to use lessons learned to develop important, new nitrogen compounds using earth-abundant iron.

In some soil bacteria, they possess an iron containing enzyme called nitrogenase which captures atmospheric nitrogen and converts it to a more reactive chemical form.  This bacterial process is impressive considering that the industrial transformation of dinitrogen into ammonia is an exceedingly energy intensive process.

Inspired by the role of iron in nature, in particular nitrogenase, the Fortier group has turned their sites to making new iron model compounds to learn more about the intermediates formed in the nitrogen fixation cycle.  They are targeting highly reactive iron-nitrogen compounds and using “super bulky” molecular scaffolds to capture these reactive molecules.

Their work will lead to new methods of iron mediated nitrogen transfer chemistry.

“The lessons that we learn will not only expand our fundamental knowledge of iron but will also give a peak into the chemistry that nature has done so well for so long,” explained Fortier.  “We are extremely thankful to the National Science Foundation for recognizing the importance of our work and providing crucial financial support for this project.”

The Fortier Laboratory in the Department of Chemistry specializes in the synthesis of metal containing molecules.  While people are most familiar with metals in their elemental form, as in hard and shiny coins, metals actually play an important chemical and biological role.

In the human body, the iron containing molecule hemoglobin transports oxygen through our blood while the iron enzyme cytochrome P450 in our livers are important for drug metabolism.

UTEP, Canadian University Partner for Combustion Research

Researchers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UTEP will collaborate with researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, to study combustion of metals as recyclable zero-carbon fuels.

“The scientific goal of the program is to achieve a better understanding of processes occurring during combustion of powdered metals as energy carriers that provide a transformative solution of the energy storage problem, enabling a faster growth of the renewable energy sector in power generation and propulsion,” said Evgeny Shafirovich, Ph.D. associate professor in mechanical engineering and the lead on the project at UTEP.

The team was awarded nearly $250,000 from the National Science Foundation for use over three years. The work will be conducted through the MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research at UTEP.

Each summer of the three-year project period, four students from UTEP will spend 12 weeks at McGill, participating in fundamental research on combustion of metals as clean energy carriers. The students will be integrated into existing research groups, where they will use unique facilities and techniques under the mentorship of highly qualified Canadian researchers.

The project will help establish long-term, sustainable collaboration between UTEP and McGill, which will lead to new projects, student exchanges, and scientific publications in the area of combustion for clean energy applications.

In addition, the collaboration will inspire, recruit and retain students from the border region, including underrepresented minority individuals, pursuing careers in areas related to combustion, energy and the environment.

On a larger scale, a great impact on clean energy technologies is expected through creating a fundamental scientific basis for implementation of a new concept for chemical energy storage in power plants based on renewables.

Work on the grant is expected to start in the 2017 fall semester.

UTEP Education Researchers Awarded $456k NSF Grant

The College of Education at The University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded a $456,076 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on persistence in and beyond undergraduate engineering studies among Latinx students.

Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina used by academics and activists.

Alberto Esquinca, Ph.D., associate professor of bilingual education, will lead the project with co-principal investigators Elsa Q. Villa, Ph.D., director of the Center for Education Research and Policy Studies; and Erika Mein, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Teacher Education.

They will examine the undergraduate education experiences of engineering students at UTEP to determine their trajectory through engineering studies and how they made their decision to enter the workforce or attend graduate school after completing their baccalaureate degree.

“This is a study of persistence in which we are to hone in on the transition between college and the workforce and/or graduate studies,” said Esquinca, the grant’s principal investigator. “This is innovative because prior studies of persistence limit the scope of their investigations to graduation, which is insufficient given that a large percentage of engineering students do not enter the engineering workforce.”

Researchers will study the persistence of mechanical engineering and computer science undergraduate students who are in their senior capstone course.

They plan to identify factors that contribute to these students’ successful trajectories beyond graduation as they seek professional positions in the workplace, and/or make decisions to continue on to graduate school during their last year of undergraduate studies.

NSF Awards UTEP $1.9 Million to Prepare New Generation in Computer Science

The National Science Foundation has awarded The University of Texas at El Paso $1.9 million to prepare more computer science professionals over the next five years.

The funds will be used to address a 2012 report on undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The report cites “uninspiring” introductory courses and an unwelcoming atmosphere from faculty as major factors contributing to attrition of STEM students.

The project at UTEP aims to address the PCAST findings by re-imagining what it means to learn, whose knowledge counts, and what counts as knowledge in the context of computer science. The UTEP model transforms faculty into change agents and fosters the development of positive student identities early in the curriculum to impact students’ trajectories in computer science and beyond.

Computer science department Chair Ann Gates, Ph.D.
Computer science department Chair Ann Gates, Ph.D.

CAHSI was formed in 2004 as a grassroots effort to increase the number of Hispanic students who pursue and complete baccalaureate and advanced degrees in the computer and information sciences and engineering (CISE) and cybersecurity areas.“Computer science department Chair Dr. Ann Gates and her faculty are always looking for ways to make our students more globally competitive,” said UTEP Vice President for Research Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D.

He added, “This grant will make a significant contribution to UTEP’s mission of access and excellence. Both components of that mission are critical for our University’s population, especially in the growing computer science field where Hispanics are underrepresented. Computer science faculty have taken proactive steps to support and engage an increased number of students in this field with efforts including the formation of the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI).”

Throughout its history, CAHSI has produced large numbers of Hispanic undergraduates in computing. CAHSI’s graduation rates have consistently surpassed the national graduation rates, even during the decline in computing B.S. degree graduates. In 2013, CAHSI increased its graduation rate of women undergraduates by 19 percent.

The overarching goal of the new project is to cultivate socially conscious connectedness among students, faculty and industry.

This will beIMG_0018 accomplished by expanding a curriculum centered on heightened social interaction driven by an understanding and appreciation for the cultural contributions of diverse students to computer science in a globalized world.

Acquired skills and knowledge from the proposed effort are expected to transfer to other subjects in students’ studies, decrease students’ time to degree, and strengthen their preparedness for entry into the computing workforce.

Further, the development of inclusive environments with members who value multiple and diverse experiences and perspectives is needed to address global challenges and opportunities.

UTEP receives National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service Grant

A team of computer science faculty from The University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded a highly competitive $3.9 million Scholarship For Service (SFS) grant from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security.

The funding will give scholarships to 28 bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. computer science students over the next five years.

The project’s goals are to increase the number of qualified students who complete advanced degrees with a specialization in cyber-security. Graduate students will enter the workforce with the ability to transfer state-of-the-art cyber-security techniques and approaches into practice.

“The project will open significant opportunities to UTEP students with an interest in software engineering and cyber-security, particularly in areas such as defense, energy, communication, transportation and manufacturing,” said UTEP Vice President for Research Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D.

The UTEP grant team, led by Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the Master of Science in Software Engineering Program Salamah I. Salamah, Ph.D., includes Ann Q. Gates, Ph.D., professor and department chair; Assistant Professor Christopher Kiekintveld, Ph.D.; and Associate Professor Luc Longpré, Ph.D.


Each student will be funded for up to three years and will receive a stipend of $34,000 (graduate students) and $22,500 (undergraduates), $4,000 for travel and professional development, $2,000 for books and supplies, and $3,000 for medical insurance. Tuition and fees also will be paid for these students.

Students will commit to work for two years in government positions that utilize their knowledge and capabilities in cyber-security.

 UTEP is one of six universities to be awarded an SFS grant in this funding cycle. It is now one of only 63 universities nationwide that are part of CyberCorps, which was established by the SFS program in 2000.

Pictured above are  John Robinson, acting senior cyber security advisor to the deputy under secretary for cyber security &  communications at the Department of Homeland Security National  Protection and Program Directorate (NPPD); Ann Q. Gates, Ph.D.,  professor and chair of the UTEP computer science department; Associate  Professor of Practice and Director of the Master of Science in Software  Engineering Program Salamah I. Salamah, Ph.D.; Joan Ferrini-Mundy,  Ph.D., assistant director, directorate for education and human  resources, National Science Foundation; Clifton N., Triplett, senior  cyber and information technology advisor, U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Photo courtesy of the National Science Foundation.

Author: UTEP

Socorro Renteria 728×90