UTSA hosts two-day National Science Foundation visit with research presentations

NSF Visit

UTSA physics professor discusses nanoparticle research utilizing lasers

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(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.