UTRGV mechanical engineering professor awarded $3M NSF grant

Mechanical Engineerimg Award

Dr. Karen Lozano, Ph.D.

AUG. 14, 2015 – Karen Lozano, Ph.D., a Julia Beecherl Endowed Professor in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has been awarded a $3 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue her work on research and student success.

The project, entitled “UTRGV-UMN Partnership for Fostering Innovation by Bridging Excellence in Research and Student Success,” is under Lozano’s direction. The award starts Sept. 1, 2015.

U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa announced the award on Friday, Aug. 14.

“The National Science Foundation continues to recognize the impressive work by the dedicated staff and talented students at UTRGV by once again awarding grant funding to this university that I am very proud to represent in my district,” Hinojosa said.

“The opportunities offered by the science team, led by Dr. Karen Lozano, will open doors for many students into science and technology career fields. We hope to see many STEM field graduates from UTRGV entering the workforce to keep the USA competitive in the global market.”

Lozano, head of the Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at UTRGV, also was recently named Engineer of the Year by Great Minds in Stem. She will be honored at the 27th HENAAC STEM Career Conference in Pasadena, Calif. in October.

The $3M NSF grant is a continuing grant and is expected to be for five years.

“We are ready to continue providing students with state-of-the-art research opportunities that have proven to strengthen their professional careers,” she said.

The project summary says the UTRGV-University of Minnesota PREM (Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials) “will develop human capital and infrastructure by bridging fundamental and engineering research on nanomaterials with the development of devices and systems for practical applications.”

It likely will be the first high-tech research program at UTRGV, according to the project summary, “and will significantly contribute to the achievement of the new University’s goal of becoming a learner-centered research institution. The PREM program has proven to be a valuable venue to equip our students with the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to thrive.”

Over the years, Lozano has helped bring numerous grants to the university, including a five-year, $2.7 million NSF grant that provided opportunities for students to work with faculty on development of polymeric and nanoparticle-based materials and devices. Additionally, her skill at engaging students through research won her a 2013 University of Texas System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award, considered one of the highest awards in the nation to recognize teaching excellence in higher education.

Dr. Theresa A. Maldonado, senior vice president for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development for UTRGV, said Lozano embodies the objectives of the new university, particularly educational opportunity, student success, and research on issues affecting the region.

“We all know that Dr. Lozano has a strong track record of profound connection with her students,” Maldonado said. “However, this NSF Partnership in Research and Education in Materials (PREM) renewal award sends two additional messages: First, her research accomplishments in nano materials funded by her first PREM grant were outstanding, to warrant a five-year renewal. And second, she has demonstrated her leadership talents by coordinating this center activity with the University Minnesota. We are very proud to have her at UTRGV.”

Lozano is a first-generation college student. She earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University, and is the first Mexican to receive a doctorate from Rice in science and the fifth woman to receive a doctorate from Rice's mechanical engineering and material sciences department.

Marci Caltabiano-Ponce, UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications