New grant aims to broaden participation in reducing-edge materials exploration

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded grants to 8 investigation teams to assistance partnerships that will raise diversity in chopping-edge supplies exploration, schooling, and career growth. A single of those teams is Penn’s Laboratory for Investigation on the Composition of Make any difference (LRSM) and the College of Puerto Rico (UPR), whose extensive-jogging collaboration has now acquired an supplemental six many years of help.

With the target of supporting partnerships amongst minority-serving academic establishments and main materials science research centers, NSF’s Partnership for Exploration & Instruction in Elements (PREM) method money revolutionary analysis packages and gives institutional assist to improve recruitment, retention, and graduation by underrepresented teams as very well as giving underserved communities entry to products exploration and training.

‘Research at the frontier’

With this PREM award, known as the Advancing System Innovation through Inclusive Investigation and Education (ADIIR) system, researchers from Penn and UPR’s Humacao and Cayey campuses will perform investigate on the qualities of novel carbon-based mostly products with exceptional qualities, and will examine the outcomes of surface modification in new lessons of sensors, detectors, and purification gadgets.

Researchers from Penn and UPR community at a poster session for the duration of a joint symposium in 2016. (Picture: Felice Macera)

Thanks to this collaboration of additional than 20 a long time, both of those establishments have manufactured considerable scientific and instructional development aided by biannual symposia and typical pre-pandemic vacation in between equally institutions just before the pandemic, resulting in a loaded portfolio of publications, conference displays, patents, college students educated, and outreach packages.

“Together we have been publishing good papers that have impression, and we’ve seriously cultivated a society of collaboration and friendship in between our institutions,” claims Penn’s Arjun Yodh, previous director of the LRSM. “Our goal is to have out exploration at the frontier and, in the procedure, nurture promising college students from Puerto Rico and Penn.”

Ivan Dmochowski, a chemistry professor at Penn who has been concerned with PREM for several years, states that this system has assisted his group connect with industry experts in Puerto Rico whose competencies complement his group’s pursuits in protein engineering. Dmochowski has also hosted UPR faculty associates and learners in his lab and also travelled to Puerto Rico prior to the pandemic to take part in analysis symposia, seminars, and outreach events.

“I’ve experienced college students who have benefitted from remaining a co-writer on a paper or having a possibility to mentor college students, and the school we have interacted with are remarkable,” Dmochowski says. “There’s a good deal of advantage for the two me and my students, and I have relished our interactions the two personally and scientifically.”

Penn’s Daeyeon Lee, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor who has been concerned with PREM for numerous years, often hosts pupils and school from UPR when performing on nanocarbon-based composite films for sensor apps. The results of this collaboration relies on exclusive elements built by scientists at UPR put together with a approach for processing them into composite structures developed in Lee’s lab.

“What I definitely admire about people today at PREM, equally college and learners, is their enthusiasm,” claims Lee. “I assume which is had a really optimistic impression on my college students and postdocs who acquired to interact with them due to the fact they bought to see the passion that the students introduced.”

Supporting STEM pathways

An additional target of PREM is to maximize participation in STEM occupations by minorities and gals. “A concentrate on variety of pupils, school, and associates, paired with the revitalization of below-resourced research, is the foundation of PREM and has been the supply of numerous effective results,” says Debasis Majumdar, director of the PREM application. “It expands nationwide innovation capability and a a lot desired, really qualified, and diverse workforce, propelling U.S. management in STEM fields.”

Working with PREM’s “pathways” tactic, the Penn and UPR partnership will have interaction Hispanic, girls, and Afro-Latin college students from disadvantaged backgrounds, like reduced-money students, initial-generation higher education college students, and all those dwelling in rural regions, with materials science and engineering research and training. This consists of coordinating outreach routines with K-12 faculties, communities, and undergraduate establishments in Puerto Rico and providing mentorship and study prospects by summer months applications, including the LRSM’s Investigation Knowledge for Undergraduates (REU) software.

Kevin Alicea-Torres, who accomplished his Ph.D. in Penn’s Cell and Molecular Biology Method, will lead the science education and learning and outreach routines in Puerto Rico as PREM’s new director of instruction. “Throughout my career I have acquired that visibility and illustration matters in STEM. Our inclusive science instruction and outreach techniques will concentrate on showcasing the do the job of product scientists and engineers from underrepresented backgrounds as a way to supply part products to encourage and empower the subsequent generation,” claims Alicea-Torres, who was the receiver of a Penn graduate university student management award for founding Penn’s Chapter of the Modern society for Progression of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native People in america in Science.

One particular PREM alumna who benefitted from this pathways tactic is Adriana Santiago-Ruiz, a existing biochemistry and molecular biophysics Ph.D. scholar. She first turned included with PREM in significant university by “experimenta con PREM” summertime classes for superior faculty college students and, whilst learning chemistry at UPR-Cayey, participated in two REU courses, such as a person at the LRSM. After finishing an NIH-sponsored postbaccalaureate system, also at Penn, she is now pursuing her tutorial pursuits in biophysics although continuing to have an active job in PREM pursuits.

a person wearing a lab coat gives a lecture to students in a lab
Adriana Santiago-Ruiz (centre) sales opportunities an “Experimenta con PREM” outreach celebration in Puerto Rico. (Image: Mark Licurse)

Though Santiago-Ruiz was in the beginning unsure about what profession she desired to go after, connecting with PREM by outreach, and afterwards by way of undergraduate exploration, served her get assurance to become involved in investigation. “Doing the REU in this article at Penn aided me define more concretely what I desired to do and pushed me to the limit, and it is why I’m below and why I delight in what I am carrying out,” she suggests. “It aided open my eyes to the possibilities you have. The prospects are unlimited, and there are also folks in the courses who are there to assistance you.”

A continued focus on fostering STEM pathways for underrepresented groups also aligns with LRSM’s concentration on education and learning, outreach, and maximizing the range of its scholarship. “This is really a partnership in which absolutely everyone at Penn also added benefits, from graduate students and postdocs to faculty and personnel in common, and it is effective for the reason that everyone is dedicated to its goals,” says Mark Licurse, director of schooling and outreach at the LRSM.

And as a Supplies Investigation Science and Engineering Middle (MRSEC), the LRSM is also capable to hook up UPR faculty and college students with its condition-of-the-artwork services, giving scientists from undergraduate-serving establishments with accessibility to top rated-tier devices to even further their operate. “We’re seeking to make positive that we give pathways for students to arrive listed here, to entry instruments that are relevant to things they are interested in, and to accessibility college students and college who can help them,” claims Eric Stach, LRSM director and co-PI of the PREM award.

Continuing fruitful collaborations

Penn and UPR scientists are enthusiastic for what the following 6 several years of PREM will carry and are on the lookout ahead to the return of travel, lab visits, and in-particular person activities once pandemic constraints are lifted. “There’s a stream of people today back again and forth that we’re hunting ahead to rejoining in buy to have exchange in details and investigate collaboration come about the two approaches,” says Stach.

“We are quite excited with this new NSF award and the chance to go on collaborating with Penn,” claims Idalia Ramos, professor in the Department of Physics and Electronics and principal investigator of the PREM award at UPR Humacao. “Our very long partnership will be revitalized with the addition of college from UPR and Penn and a new application of investigation and education and learning activities. Importantly, with this collaboration, we will carry on attracting underrepresented learners to components exploration and preparing them to pursue superior degrees in science and engineering.”

Ivan Dmochowski is a professor in the Office of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

Daeyeon Lee is a professor and the Evan C Thompson Term Chair for Excellence in Instructing in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Adriana Santiago-Ruiz is a Ph.D. scholar in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Team in Penn’s Perelman Faculty of Medicine.

Eric Stach is a professor in the Division of Resources Science and Engineering in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also the director of the Laboratory for Research on the Construction of Subject.

Arjun Yodh is the James M. Skinner Professor of Science in the Division of Physics & Astronomy in Penn’s University of Arts & Sciences.

The Advancing Device Innovation by Inclusive Research and Schooling software, funded beneath U.S. National Science Basis Grant DMR-2122102, will sustain a productive collaboration that began in 1998 underneath the NSF CIRE system and has ongoing with NSF’s Partnership for Research & Training in Resources (PREM) help given that 2004.

Penn’s Laboratory for Exploration on the Framework of Matter (LRSM) was founded in 1960 as one of the initial interdisciplinary educational Elements Investigation Laboratories in the country, with the aim of uniting get the job done across chemistry, physics, and engineering to define and construct a new subject of materials science and engineering. Given that 1996, the LRSM has been supported by the NSF as a Products Study Science and Engineering Heart.