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UTSA Physics Department receives $2.7 million to study nanomaterials

(Sept. 10, 2009)The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study nanomaterials and their biomedical applications. The NSF grant, called a Partnership for Research and Education in Materials grant, is the second major NSF award announced this month by UTSA. Recently, UTSA announced the receipt of $5 million to establish a computer-based research center in its College of Engineering.

More than 80% of the funds from the $2.7 million grant will stay with UTSA, which will conduct the nanomaterials research in collaboration with the UT Health Science Center and with Northwestern University's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. The latter is one of the top 14 nanomaterials centers in the U.S.

UTSA's new physics grant is also a win for students, who will receive $900,000 of the grant's total budget. Faculty researchers will hire six UTSA graduate students each year to assist them with their nanomaterials research. Each graduate student will be paid $25,000 annually. Simultaneously, six UTSA undergraduate students will be hired each year at a rate of $5,000 per student per year.

"Nanomaterials, nanoscience and nanomedicine are extremely complex, rapidly developing areas that offer huge benefits to society," said Robert Gracy, UTSA vice president for research. "However, because of this complexity, their study requires expertise from many different disciplines. Fortunately, UTSA is able to bring together these groups of experts. This grant is a great example of collaborations, partnerships and the synergy required to address such complex problems. Clearly, the NSF recognizes UTSA's leadership in this area."

"When I first arrived at UTSA in 1984, we didn't have a Physics Department let alone funding for physics research," said Dhiraj Sardar, Ashbel Smith Professor of Physics and the study's principal investigator. "But once we established our Physics Ph.D. program, we opened the door to apply for larger grants. Now we're looking at the largest grant in our department's history. I know this is just the beginning."

UTSA's $2.7 million grant, "Oxide and Metal Nanoparticles: The Interface between Life Sciences and Physical Sciences", will focus on six areas of nanomaterials research:

  • Rare earth-based nanoparticles and dual-purpose biosensors
  • The medical applications of nanoparticles
  • New nanomaterials and their applications in biology
  • Metal nanoparticles and their applications in neuroscience
  • Analysis of nanomaterials using Terahertz for biological imaging
  • The use of pulsed lasers and atomic lasers to place nanoparticles in a target for various applications


Contact: Christi Fish
University of Texas at San Antonio

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