University of New Mexico - Harvard University

Julia Fulghum

Principal Investigator , University of New Mexico

Health disparities in minority communities provide a compelling context for engaging young people to study biomaterials science. We have established a research and educational partnership between the MRSEC at Harvard University, the University of New Mexico (UNM), the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). The partnership integrates alliances with local educational institutions, focusing on education and training of minority students, teacher-education, team-based research, and professional development at all levels to result in substantive institutional and infrastructure development. This systematic approach will have an enormous impact by achieving the goals of the PREM in the short term, while guaranteeing an enduring legacy for the NSF investment in the form of an active, multi-faceted, biomaterials education and research program in the State of New Mexico. PREM faculty have helped establish the state's first and only formalized education program in biomedical / bioengineering.

Research Activities:


1. High Performance Materials for Low Cost Diagnostics. G. P. Lopez (UNM/Duke); P. Atanassov (UNM); S. Sibbett (UNM); H. Stone (Harvard); D. A. Weitz (Harvard); G. Whitesides (Harvard)

2. Smart Materials for Manipulating Cell/Surface and Cell/Cell Interactions in 2- and 3- Dimensions. H.E. Canavan (UNM); D. A. Weitz (Harvard)

3. Microfluidic Droplets for DNA Sequencing and Materials Synthesis. D. N. Petsev (UNM); J. Edwards (UNM); D. A. Weitz (Harvard)

4. Influence of Active Materials on Cellular Functions. E. L. Dirk (UNM); D. Mooney (Harvard); D. A. Weitz (Harvard)

Outreach Activities:

Education is an integral part of the PREM at UNM. As members of a federally recognized Hispanic-serving institution, PREM participants are committed to education, recruitment, and inclusion of under-represented minorities (URM) in biomedical engineering and related fields. During the 2009-10 academic year, our outreach program included:

Interactive presentations and hands-on learning activities for elementary, middle, high school, and undergraduate students. PREM faculty and students design and execute activities tailored to the demographics of participating schools. Our presentations and hands-on learning activities are culturally embedded and student-centered. Students act as “Bioengineers for a Day” and are encouraged to take ownership of the projects they create. Follow-up assignments enable students to explore the role of a biomedical engineer and to disseminate the knowledge and enthusiasm they have acquired to siblings, parents, and peers.

Community groups also benefit from our outreach efforts. Here a young man from Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of Bernalillo County enjoys exploring properties of polymers used in medicine and biology.

Training for undergraduate and graduate students. All PREM-supported undergraduate and graduate students are required to participate in outreach activities. Faculty provide training and supervision, promoting acquisition of the pedagogic skills essential to a career in academic science. Immersion experiences for elementary and high school students. Students tour UNM laboratory facilities, viewing and participating in learning activities designed by PREM faculty. School-to-school partnerships with programs and institutions serving Hispanic, Native American, and African American students. Current and future partners include UNM Gallup, Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, Albuquerque High School, and the Pre-College Science and Mathematics Program.

K-12 outreach programs include kits with materials for the teacher to discuss before and after our outreach visits. Here, a UNM undergraduate helps 8th grade students write up their research findings in a pre-formatted laboratory report.

School year and paid summer internships for local high school students. Working under the supervision of PREM faculty, high school students have an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research in a supportive, cooperative learning environment. Outcomes for participating students have included publication credit in primary research journals and early admission to highly selective undergraduate engineering programs. Continuous cohort recruitment for secondary school and undergraduate students. All of our outreach activities are designed to facilitate recruitment of future participants by past and current participants, promoting development of a self-sustaining pool of URM actively engaged in all aspects of biomedical engineering. Recruitment activities focus on biomedical engineering as a career path. At high schools and community colleges, faculty and staff have promoted biomedical engineering as a career path with portals of entry at high school, community college, undergraduate, and graduate degree levels.


  • M. A. Cooperstein and H. E. Canavan, Biological Cell Detachment from Poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide) and its Applications, Langmuir, (2010) 26 (2010) p. 7695.
  • N. J. Carroll, S. Pylypenko, P. B. Atanassov and D. N. Petsev, Bidisperse Nano-Porous Microparticles Derived by Microemulsion Templating, Langmuir, 25 (2009) p. 13540.
Jane Doe

Research Scientist, California State University

Hans Hanley

Electrical Engineering, Princeton University