UPenn’s collaboration with University of Puerto Rico receives new grant from the National Science Foundation
The grant will increase diversity in cutting-edge research.
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The National Science Foundation awarded eight research teams across the U.S. grants aimed at increasing diversity in cutting-edge materials research.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), a long running collaboration of 20 years, are one of the research teams to be awarded. The grant is part of NSF’s Partnership for Research & Education in Materials (PREM) program, which will support partnerships between minority-serving educational institutions and leading materials science research centers.
"We are very excited with this new NSF award and the opportunity to continue collaborating with Penn,” said Idalia Ramos, a Department of Physics and Electronics professor and principal investigator of the PREM award at UPR Humacao.
As reported by Penn Today, researchers from LRSM and UPR’s Humacao and Cayey campuses will continue to research on properties of novel carbon-based materials and study the effects of surface modification in new classes of sensors, detectors, and purification devices.
“Together we have been publishing good papers that have an impact, and we’ve really cultivated a culture of collaboration and friendship between our institutions,” former Director of LRSM, Arjun Yodh told Penn Today. “Our goal is to carry out research at the frontier and, in the process, nurture promising students from Puerto Rico and Penn.”
Debasis Majumdar, Director of the PREM program said the foundation of the program is not only run with a focus on creating diversity among students and faculty, but also the revitalization of under-resourced research, according to Penn Today.
“It expands national innovation capacity and a much needed, highly trained, and diverse workforce, propelling U.S. leadership in STEM fields,” Majumdar said.
The program also paves a way for more women and minorities to have a career in the STEM field, as UPenn’s collaboration will continue to engage Latinx students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including low-income students, first-generation college students.
“Throughout my career I have learned that visibility and representation matters in STEM. Our inclusive science education and outreach strategies will focus on showcasing the work of material scientists and engineers from underrepresented backgrounds as a way to provide role models to inspire and empower the next generation,” Kevin Alicea-Torres, Puerto Rico PREM’s Director of Education, told Penn Today.
The grant provides not only the funds to keep the partnership going, but will help continue the goals of the program, which aids both institutions in making significant scientific and educational progress.
“This is truly a partnership where everyone at Penn also benefits, from graduate students and postdocs to faculty and staff in general, and it is successful because everyone is committed to its goals,” said Mark Licurse, director of Education and Outreach at LRSM.
Although the grant is just one step to increasing diversity within the STEM field, Ramos said the program will continue to help those underrepresented students pursue degrees and careers in science and math.
“Our long partnership will be revitalized with the addition of faculty from UPR and Penn and a new program of research and education activities,” Ramos said. “Importantly, with this collaboration, we will continue attracting underrepresented students to materials research and preparing them to pursue advanced degrees in science and engineering.”