(Nov. 7, 2011) -- The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy recently hosted representatives from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and visiting university professors to learn more about the department's participation as a member of the Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM).
The two-day visit included research and poster presentations by physics faculty members and students as well as tours of UTSA physics laboratories.
Miguel Yacaman, professor of astronomy and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, introduced the group to "Helenita," one of the world's most powerful electron microscopes. The microscope was purchased in January 2010 with the support of a $1.2 million gift from the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation.
The JEOL transmission electron microscope will assist in development of new cancer therapies and disease treatments by allowing nanotechnology researchers to see samples magnified 20 million times their original size.
Yacaman said the microscope is being used extensively by UTSA faculty and students. Additionally, the microscope is being used for an hourly rate by faculty members outside the university and researchers in the private sector.
While on campus, PREM site visitors also had the opportunity to tour the laboratory of Dhiraj Sardar, Ashbel Smith Professor of Physics, who uses lasers for his nanotechnology research. Sardar was the principal investigator who helped the department acquire a five-year $2.7 million grant in 2009 from the NSF. The grant is designed to help increase the participation of underrepresented minorities and advance the understanding of the fundamental science of nanomaterials. Additionally, the grant enhances the educational outreach programs for high school and junior college students.
The department's investments in sophisticated world-class, high-technology equipment and nanotechnology research have paid dividends as the interest in physics continues to grow. Since the UTSA doctoral degree program was established in 2005, eight students have earned Ph.D.s in physics. Currently, 63 students are enrolled in the program, ranking it the fifth largest in Texas.
UTSA prides itself on giving students a well-rounded education. Combining a top-tier academic program with opportunities for personal growth prepares students to compete in a global economy. And that's not all. They learn to be informed and engaged citizens as well. At the heart of that academic program is an award-winning core curriculum.
For four consecutive years, UTSA has received an A-rating from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for the caliber of its core curriculum. According to ACTA, UTSA requires its students to take six of the seven courses deemed "crucial" to a well-rounded education: composition, literature, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science. Only a handful of other institutions in the U.S. are giving students these tools, which are needed to succeed in careers and the community.
Did you know? UTSA is one of only three Texas institutions and 23 in the United States to receive the highest rating for its core curriculum in the 2014-2015 edition of the ACTA's "What Will They Learn?" report.
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