The UW MRSEC and University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM) have a history of sustained interaction that has positively impacted the participation of Hispanic people in materials science and engineering at all levels of the pipeline, from K-12 through faculty. The partnership is grounded in research collaborations between faculty members at both universities, and includes several UPRM faculty members who have received PhDs in engineering at UW-Madison (Yomaira Pagan Torres, Patricia Ortiz Bermudez, Nelson Cardona Martinez, Maribella Domenech, Garcia, and others). The partnership was supported from 2009-2014 through a Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) grant.
Since the completion of the PREM grant, the UW and UPRM have continued a dynamic and productive relationship that extends to both research and education. Ongoing research collaborations continue between faculty at UPRM and UW including projects on: active colloids and multifunctional nanoporous materials. In Education, UPRM and UW partner to provide authentic research experiences to high school teachers and undergraduate students.
The cross-cultural Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program gives teachers from Wisconsin and Puerto Rico the opportunity to work in a research laboratory under the mentorship of a UW MRSEC or UPRM faculty member and a graduate student or postdoctoral associate. The RET participants and their mentors co-develop a classroom curriculum module that the teacher implements and evaluates in their own classroom. The summer program ends with a capstone week program where the teachers meet face-to-face at one of the two sites to share their research experiences and present their modules to each other. In the 2017 program, the MRSEC funded four teachers at UW and one at UPRM; capstone week was held in Puerto Rico. In addition, both the UW MRSEC and UPRM host undergraduates through their and Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. The UPRM program began in 2014 and uses many of the best practices developed in the UW MRSEC REU program. From 2015 to 2017, over 30 students from UPRM participated in the REU program.