Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Big world connections, small-scale research: Carlos Garcia's team crosses cultures

research team

UTSA Microanalytical Chemistry Lab research team (from left): Gabrielle Haby, Associate Professor Carlos Garcia, Jessica Felhofer, Snigdha Boppidi, Karin Chumbimuni Torres and Raju Khan

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(May 11, 2011)--While working with ever-smaller amounts of materials, one UTSA research team is encompassing a larger, more global scale. On the fourth floor of the Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building in the Microanalytical Chemistry Lab of Carlos D. Garcia, UTSA associate professor of chemistry, the team is crossing cultural lines. Garcia is bringing researchers from around the world to train and collaborate with other scientists worldwide.

Each team member has expertise to offer, not only about electrodes, nanotechnology and fluids, but also through each participant's different mindset and worldview. Team member ages range from mid-20s to mid-40s and come from places as close as the South Side of San Antonio and as far as Atlanta, India, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Iran and Spain.

Garcia was born in Argentina and has traveled in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Sweden, Spain and several other countries to study and do research. His experiences through researching in other countries have shown him the value of a truly international education. It helps more than one might expect, as scientists share more than research.

"People come with different experiences and different ways of solving a problem," he explains. "We learn as much as they do. It has been extremely positive for us."

Years ago, Garcia started a very ambitious international recruitment effort to bring scholars and students to his lab. Now, they contact him and ask if there is space in San Antonio. Team members in Garcia's lab can make diffuse connections because they all can see details and information from a slightly different perspective. The international aspect of the lab isn't a detriment. It's a value-added aspect.

Collegial and cultural exchange happens without much effort. Taste buds are involved. Jessica Felhofer, who has been working in the lab since she was an undergrad, calls it "delicious." Why? Because lunchtime isn't only when the group meets to discuss larger projects; it also is a time to share food and recipes.

Karin Chumbimuni Torres from Peru explains, "We talk a little bit during lunch, we learn the culture, the food they bring, you become more aware of the world."

Different languages and backgrounds are not a problem.

"Mainly, we are chemists, we have chemistry to talk about," says Chumbimuni Torres. "You speak the same way in chemistry. The science can grow more, by talking with them."

This is evident during the team's Thursday morning sessions in which they discuss presentations and research. Lab members must be prepared to think on their feet and answer any and all questions. This prepares the students and researchers for presenting at conferences, when questions from technical to mundane to oddball can be asked.

"We try to be as mean as possible," Garcia jokes.

On a recent Thursday morning, it was Felhofer's turn. Team members politely listened to her presentation, which focused on different strategies to improve the analysis of biological molecules.

Then the questions came.

Garcia uses these sessions as a lesson not only in thinking quickly, but also listening carefully to complex questions and questions using terminology slightly different from your area of training.

Sometimes, terminology doesn't always easily translate. "There can be some cultural and language barriers," Garcia explains. His lab members are used to hosting international fellows; they have learned to be patient with each other.

For example, in a recent question-and-answer session, Chumbimuni Torres was trying to understand "biogenic" as a scientific term. How is it different from organic, she wondered?

In the gamely attempt to break it down, Felhofer said, "It means it is generated by biological things."

The Microanalytical Chemistry Lab's work touches upon four main research topics:

  • Capillary Electrophoresis and Microchip-Capillary Electrophoresis is a novel technique that allows the fast separation of minute amounts of sample. With the support from the Office of Naval Research Global, Garcia's lab, the UTSA MEMS Lab, and the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) have been able to develop a series of robotic prototypes to apply capillary electrophoresis for the remote analysis of chemical warfare agents.
  • Electrochemical Detection is one of the most convenient ways to quantify biological compounds after the separation step. Garcia's lab is working on different ways to rationally improve the selectivity and sensitivity of this detection method.
  • Interactions of Proteins with Nanomaterials is a critical project for Garcia's team. They are currently trying to understand how the nanoenvironment provided by certain materials can affect the structure and catalytic activity of certain proteins. They believe the outcomes of this project can impact how people design sensors, implants and drug delivery devices.

With the support from the National Science Foundation, Garcia directs a summer program that takes UTSA students to perform research (all expenses paid) to Brazil. The program aims to enable students to acquire unique scientific skills along with an exceptional cultural experience.



Oct. 14, 5:30 p.m.

Architecture as Rendered Society

The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, in partnership with AIA San Antonio’s Latinos in Architecture, presents architect Andrés Jaque, founder of the Office for Political Innovation, an architectural practice dually based in New York and Madrid.
Buena Vista Building, Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus

Oct. 15, 6 p.m.

Take Back the Night 2015

The UTSA Women’s Studies Institute invites you to Take Back the Night, an international initiative to raise awareness and empower survivors while educating allies through a march, poetry, and testimonios. This is a gender-inclusive movement to shatter the silence surrounding sexual and domestic violence.
Sombrilla Plaza, Main Campus

Oct. 19, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

UTSA Grad Fest Fall 2015

Grad Fest is an event designed to prepare you for commencement while celebrating your achievement. You will have the opportunity to purchase commencement regalia, order class rings, diploma frames, explore graduate school opportunities, learn about successful Stafford loan repayment and discuss career outcomes.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Oct. 20, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

UTSA Grad Fest Fall 2015

Grad Fest is an event designed to prepare you for commencement while celebrating your achievement. You will have the opportunity to purchase commencement regalia, order class rings, diploma frames, explore graduate school opportunities, learn about successful Stafford loan repayment and discuss career outcomes.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Oct. 20-21, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

SECC Book Sale

Looking for a good read? Shop for yourself or for gifts and help change a life at the same time. Browse and buy children’s stories, novels and more at the 2015 SECC Book Sale.
Sombrilla Plaza, Main Campus

Oct. 21, 7-8:30 p.m.

Texas Water Symposium

The Texas Water Symposium will take a close look at the SAWS/Vista Ridge pipeline project. The program will feature a conversation about the regional, financial and ecological considerations of the 142-mile pipeline. The event is free and open to the public.
Main Building (MB 0.106), Main Campus

Oct. 22, 6 p.m.

Phi Kappa Phi Last Lecture

What would Dr. John Bartkowski say if it were his last lecture? The UTSA professor of sociology will speak about “The Power of Listening” in this annual event sponsored by the UTSA chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. A reception will follow.
Denman Room (UC 2.201.28), Main Campus

Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m.

Lecture by Composer Larry Groupe

The UTSA Music Department presents Emmy-award winning Composer Larry Groupe. Groupe has composed music for films such as "The Contender," "Straw Dogs" and "Miami Vice," and TV shows such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Ren and Stimpy" and "American Gladiators." Lecture is free and open to the public.
Arts Building (ART 2.03.15-18), Main Campus

Oct. 29, 5:30 p.m.

White Bound: Nationalists, Anti-Racists and the Shared Meanings of Race

The Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series continues with Dr. Matthew Hughey, a scholar of race, racism and racial inequality.
Buena Vista Building (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus

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Did You Know?

UTSA writes the book on all-digital libraries

As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.

At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.

Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.

With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.

Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.

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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA's Vision

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