PREM has a new logo that integrates key elements of the program — materials science, diversity, and collaboration.  

NSF first floated the idea to create a logo in September of last year, and PREM communities across the country got to work. The submissions were presented and voted on at the PREM Research Scholars Symposium, which took place at the Materials Research Society’s Fall 2019 meeting in Boston. The winning logo was developed by a team from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao (UPRH).

The blue and yellow colors of the logo represent diversity; the hexagons — commonly used in materials science research — are connected to highlight partnership and collaboration. Students brainstormed for weeks, coming up with different iterations that would clearly and succinctly convey the core message of PREM. “I thought it was excellent work they did,” says Jorge Nicolás (Nico) Hernández Charpak, Associate Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer of the STROBE NSF Science and Technology Center.

PREM Scholars Broaden Horizons

PREM scholars take a break from the MRS Fall Meeting that took place in Boston in September 2019. More than 65 participants from all 16 active PREMs attended the meeting. Image courtesy of MRS

Last year, in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the PREM program, NSF partnered with MRS to bring students from all of its active PREMs to the MRS Fall Meeting. In all, more than 65 PREM students from 16 PREMs attended including more than 30 graduate students and early career scientists.  

“The MRS Fall meeting opened up a great opportunity for PREM students to be immersed in a world-class materials research conference,” says Debasis Majumdar, PREM Program Director. “It gave them exposure to cutting-edge research, innovations, and career opportunities in materials science and engineering.” 

MRS is a professional society of more than 14,000 members who come from diverse fields of chemistry, biology, engineering, and physics. The organization has been working to broaden participation in materials science particularly among underrepresented groups.  

“The materials science community as a whole undoubtedly benefits by increasing the number of scientists with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to solve the complex problems faced by the scientific community,” says Karen Lozano, Director of the Nanotechnology Center at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Lozano, along with Hernandez Charpak, Idalia Ramos — Director of PENN (University of Pennsylvania)-UPRH PREM — and Anne Lynn Gillian-Daniel — Director of the MRSEC Interdisciplinary Education Group, was instrumental in the effort to bring PREM students to the meeting.

PREM attendees Alexa Villareal and Raul Barbosa from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley present their research on composite fibers made from plant extracts at the MRS 2019 Fall Meeting. Image courtesy of MRS

While at the meeting, students had the opportunity to attend symposia that covered topics such as development in catalytic materials for sustainable energy as well as materials for high-energy and safe electrochemical energy storage. Workshops touched on a variety of issues including how best to understand unconscious biases toward women in the workplace as well as how to prepare for graduate school. Tutorials explored topics such as commonly used materials characterization techniques using neutrons.

“As an underrepresented woman in STEM, I felt empowered after experiencing the highly interactive, inclusive, and collaborative environment of the MRS conference, especially the PREM Scholars activities,” says Andrea Marcano, a chemistry junior at UPRH. More than 86 percent of the PREM mentees and 50 percent of the mentors were underrepresented minorities.

Students were also able to present their research as well as learn about other ongoing research at the meeting’s poster session. PREM students had countless networking opportunities to meet with professionals in materials science as well as with other PREM attendees.

“The networking with students from other PREMs helped them understand they are part of a larger materials science community,” says Ramos. “I think the interactions promoted by this event will certainly contribute to our goal of developing strong and diverse new generations of materials researchers.”