Recent MRSEC News

UC San Diego MRSEC publication featuring IRG1 faculty Tod Pascal, David Fenning and IRG1 Trainee Affiliate Pedram Abbasi selected for cover of Nano Letters

May 2022


"Modulation of Surface Electronic States in epitaxial BaTiO3 for Enhanced Hydrogen Evolution Activity." Abbasi P, Barrone M ,Valdespino-Padilla D, Salev P, Kim T, Paik H, Jáuregui M, Schuller IK, Schlom DG, Pascal TA and Fenning DP, Nano Letters, in press. doi://10.1021/acs.nanolett.2c00047

The above multi-IRG1 faculty and trainee publication cover image for manuscript was selected for upcoming Nano Letters Journal print in August 2022. Nano Letters is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society.



Congratulations to IRG1 Faculty, Professor Alex Frañó, for winning 2022 Physical Sciences EDI Excellence Award!

May 2022

Assistant Professor of Physics Alex Frañó incorporates EDI into his research, teaching and outreach. He has mentored students from the Cal-Bridge Physics & Astronomy South Steering Committee as well as UC LEADS and the University Center of Exemplary Mentoring program.

Frañó’s research group includes numerous students and postdoctoral scholars from underrepresented groups. He created a classroom project that allows students to choose a faculty research paper and interview that faculty member about their work. This is especially impactful for underrepresented students who often have less opportunity to connect with faculty and research. Frañó recently received the American Physical Society Forum Diversity and Inclusion Award for Early Career Scientists.

The awards were created by the division’s EDI committee, comprised of faculty and staff from the chemistry and biochemistry, mathematics and physics departments. EDI initiatives are driven by the ongoing efforts of the faculty, students, postdoctoral scholars and staff within the division. These awards honor those who have generated intentional, sustained, impactful and innovative EDI efforts.



2021 REU Participant, Rachel Myers, awarded Goldwater Scholarship for STEM research

April 2022

Congratulations to Rachel Myers, a 2021 UC San Diego MRSEC REU participant, for her 2022 Goldwater Scholarship award. Rachel is completing her B.S. at University of Maryland Baltimore County in chemical engineering. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program is designed to provide the United States with “a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers” to move the nation forward. More than 1,200 students applied from over 425 institutions across the country this year. The program selected a total of 417 scholars to receive Goldwater scholarships for 2022-23.

2022 Goldwater Scholars



Professors Darren Lipomi and Shaochen Chen awarded National Science Foundation's (NSF) BRITE Awards

March 2022

Congratulations to IRG2’s Professor Darren Lipomi for receiving the NSF's Boosting Research Ideas for Transformative and Equitable Advances in Engineering (BRITE) Pivot Award! The BRITE Pivot award is intended to enable researchers to quickly adapt to the fast-moving pace of research and create new knowledge and research products in their field by infusing new concepts from a different discipline or sub-field.


Congratulations to our SEED program's Professor Shaochen Chen, for receiving NSF's BRITE Fellow grant for "Intelligent Nanoscale 3D Biomanufacturing Towards Human-on-a-Chip." As a Principal Investigator Prof. Chen will create a nanoscale biomanufacturing platform powered by artificial intelligence that can serve as a functional, three-dimensional model of human tissues, organs and systems. This “human-on-a-chip” could transform regenerative medicine and tools for disease modeling, drug screening, environmental studies and other applications.


Professor Tod Pascal awarded National Science Foundation's (NSF) CAREER Award

Congratulations to IRG1’s Professor Tod Pascal for winning a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF)! The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization


Dr. Pascal recently was featured in a podcast with the National Nanotech Initiative office, talking about MRSEC activities and research.

Friday, February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

For more info visit

January 2022

Congratulations to Professor Shirley Meng on her recognition by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general science organization in the world and publisher of the journal Science! As a 2021 AAAS Fellow, Professor Meng was cited for "innovative and original discovery of interfacial sciences in energy storage materials that has led to improved battery technologies." Her research group – the Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion (LESC) – focuses on functional nano- and micro-scale materials for energy storage and conversion. Her research focus includes the design, synthesis, processing, and operating characterization of energy storage materials in advanced rechargeable batteries; new intercalation materials for sodium ion batteries; and advanced flow batteries for large scale storage on the grid. For more information, visit


January 2022

NTEC 2022 is supported by participating sites of the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI).  Student-led teams can receive funding or in-kind facility access and mentorship to develop nano-enabled innovations. NTEC awards:

  • Provide resources to help students use nanotechnology to solve real-world problems in society
  • Encourage innovation and entrepreneurship through diverse, student-led teams involved in sites of the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure
  • Educate students on the technology transfer process and programs like NSF I-Corps
  • Encourage commercialization of original ideas OR IP available for license through NNCI sites

For more information on awards and eligibility, please click here.

Deadline to apply: February 11, 2022

If you are interested to apply, please email Yves Theriault at: for the application form and guidance.

Please also visit San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI) NanoTechnology Educational Resources website. 

December 2021

Pilot group of seven Francis Parker students and two faculty visit UC San Diego MRSEC to explore research opportunities and partnerships to improve and expand K-12 education in STEM fields. The group was hosted by Professor Mike Sailor and Professor Tod Pascal for half a day to tour the Center and its facilities. For more details, please click here.

Submission deadline: November 22, 2021 (11:59 pm PDT) via

We are pleased to announce a call for proposals for the 2021-2022 UC San MRSEC Seed Grant Program. The program is open to all faculty members within the UC San Diego materials research community. . Seed Grants in 2021 are intended to provide short-term funding to initiate exciting new research directions within the UC San Diego MRSEC. The goal of the 2021 Seed Grant Program is to support collaborative research that is innovative and offers a potential for developing new IRG directions. Successful execution of the proposed research is expected to lead to additional federal grants and the potential for long-term MRSEC funding.

IRG1 focuses on synthetic and computational aspects of the mesoscale assembly of materials. IRG2 seeks to develop stimuli-responsive ‘living materials’ by merging polymer science with synthetic biology.

Each Seed Grant will provide $25,000-$75,000 direct costs for a one-year project, with the potential for renewal for a second year or for continuous IRG support, subject to review. For more information on eligibility, review criteria and proposal submission, click here.

For 2020-2021 Seed Project Faculty & Collaborators, click here.

April 8, 2021  |  Source: Materials Research Society

Dr. Akif Tezcan, Professor at the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department at UC San Diego, and UC San Diego MRSEC IRG1-Affiliated Faculty has been awarded the 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants. Created in 1925 by Senator Simon and Olga Guggenheim in memory of their son John Simon Guggenheim, the Foundation has offered fellowships to exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge and creation in any art form, under the freest possible conditions.

Read the full story here.

March 31, 2021  |  Source: Materials Research Society

Dr. Shirley Meng, Professor at the Department of Nanoengineering at UC San Diego, Director of the Institute for Materials Discovery and Design (IMDD), and UC San Diego MRSEC's Facilities/External Relations Lead has been selected to the Class of 2021 MRS Fellows. The title of MRS Fellow honors those MRS members who are notable for their distinguished research accomplishments and their outstanding contributions to the advancement of materials research, world-wide. The maximum number of new Fellow appointments each year is limited up to 0.2% of the current MRS regular membership and to those with continuous engagement with MRS. Thus, the distinction is highly selective. Congratulations, Professor Meng!

For additional information, visit

March 9, 2021  |  Source: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Professor at the Department of Nanoengineering at UC San Diego, and the UC San Diego MRSEC IRG2 Co-Lead, Dr. Nicole Steinmetz, was honored to become a Fellow of the International Association of Advanced Materials in recognition of her contribution to "Advancement of Materials to Global Excellence". Congratulations, Professor Steinmetz!

Professor Alex Frañó named a 2021 Cottrell Scholar

February 9, 2021  |  Source: Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Research Corporation for Science Advancement has named 25 outstanding teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics, and astronomy as recipients of its 2021 Cottrell Scholar Awards. Alex Frañó, Professor at the Department of Physics at the University of California San Diego, and a MRSEC-affiliated faculty was among this year's recipients.

Recipients are chosen through a rigorous peer-review process of applications from top research universities, degree-granting research institutes, and primarily undergraduate institutions in the United States and Canada. Their award proposals incorporate both science education and research. Each award is $100,000. Congratulations, Professor Frañó!

Read the full story here.

Congratulations to the MRSEC 2020 Seed Grant Recipients!

February 4, 2021  |  Source: UC San Diego MRSEC

The MRSEC 2020 Seed Grant Recipients are:

Alina Schimpf, Assistant Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry. Proposal Title: Precise Synthesis of Nanocrystal Building-Blocks
Zheng Chen, Assistant Professor, Nanoengineering. Proposal Title: Hierarchical Assembly of Structurally Oriented Metal-Organic Frameworks as Novel Ionic Conductors

Donald Sirbuly, Associate Professor, Nanoengineering. Proposal Title: Nanofiber optics for in situ real-time nanometrology 

October 30, 2020  |  Source: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced more than $27 million in funding for 12 projects that will support the development of advanced renewable plastics and new recyclable-by-design plastics. Two of the dozen projects—collectively funded for more than $4 million—belong to UC San Diego researchers: Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Director of the Center for Renewable Materials, Michael Burkart and Professor of Nanoengineering Jon Pokorski (pictured right), both part of the university’s Institute for Materials Discovery and Design.

Part of DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, these projects will help improve existing recycling processes that break plastics into chemical building blocks, which can in turn be used to make new products. For example, Burkart, Skip Pomeroy (chemistry and biochemistry) and Stephen Mayfield (biology) have developed algae-based polyurethane foams used in commercial products like surfboards and flip-flops that are partially biodegradable. The new $2 million from the DOE toward their project will further their goal of achieving full renewability.

Read the full story here.

September 8, 2020  |  Source: UC San Diego MRSEC

UC San Diego MRSEC is announcing a call for proposals for its 2020 Seed Grant program. This program aims to initiate collaborations complementary to the two MRSEC Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs): IRG 1: synthetic and computational aspects of the mesoscale assembly of materials; IRG2: stimuli-responsive ‘living materials’ by merging polymer science with synthetic biology.

Each Seed Grant will provide $25K-$75K, for a one-year project and must include one faculty-member PI, in addition to two or more faculty collaborators currently within the MRSEC. 2-3 awards are anticipated. Eligible applicants are ladder-rank UC San Diego Faculty members not currently within a UC San Diego MRSEC IRG. Proposals must be submitted through by November 13, 2020, 11:59PM Pacific Time

August 13, 2020  |  Source: UC San Diego News

Women in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry are taking bold steps toward increased balance and fairness on campus. For example, Department Chair and Distinguished Professor Vicki Grassian set the pace by establishing the role of Vice Chair of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Climate (VC-EDIC). Professor Stacey Brydges—a long-time leader in chemistry education and ardent champion of social justice and access to/retention in STEM—quickened the pace when she became the inaugural vice chair.

Grassian is a leader who works collaboratively to effect change. She previously served as executive associate dean for the Division of Physical Sciences and led the Task Force on the Status of Women in the Physical Sciences along with Associate Dean of EDI Alison Coil. Brydges, who was part of that task force—along with other scientists in the division—said that the processes and products used by the task force offer a great template from which to work.

Full article here.

JULY 16, 2020  |  Source:
A flip flop prototype made by Algenesis in their UCSD laboratory. Photo credit: Daniel Fishman

A flip flop prototype made by Algenesis in their UCSD laboratory. Photo credit: Daniel Fishman

Foams are a ubiquitous consumer product, supporting people in many different ways – think yoga mats, seat cushions, mattresses, insulation, footwear, and more. These diverse products all have one thing in common: they’re made from polyurethane. Most polyurethanes are made from petroleum, but in recent years foam makers have tried to incorporate renewable building blocks made from plants and algae. Until now, creating foams entirely from plants and algae was impractical, but researchers at Algenesis in La Jolla, California, are making exciting progress towards changing that!

When the Advanced Algal Systems team at the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), led by technical manager Daniel Fishman, last caught up with this group of researchers based at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), including this blog’s co-author Professor Michael Burkart (IRG 2), they were making waves (literally!) with the world’s first algae-based surfboard. While that breakthrough generated interest globally, the BETO and UCSD project partners knew there was more work to be done, because the foam that went into the surfboard, and a range of other products like flip-flops, was only half algae. The other half of the foam recipe still called for a petroleum-based family of chemicals known as isocyanates.

Full article here.

JULY 9, 2020  |  Source: UC San Diego News
The UC San Diego MRSEC center provides sustained research and educational opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students, with a particular focus on transfer students. Photos by Erik Jepsen/University Communications

The UC San Diego MRSEC center provides sustained research and educational opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students, with a particular focus on transfer students. Photos by Erik Jepsen/University Communications

The National Science Foundation has awarded University of California San Diego researchers a six-year $18 million grant to fund a new Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).

These research centers are transformative for the schools that earn them, putting their materials science research efforts into the global spotlight. In addition to research and facilities funding, MRSEC centers provide sustained research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students, and resources to focus on diversifying the pool of students studying materials science.

The UC San Diego labs funded by this new MRSEC will focus on two important, emerging approaches to build new materials aimed at improving human lives. The first research theme is all about developing new ways to control the properties of materials during their synthesis by controlling how they transition, from the smallest atomic building blocks to materials that are large enough to see with the human eye.  The second research theme is focused on creating hybrid materials that incorporate living substances—microbes and plant cells—in order to create materials with new properties.

The new materials developed at UC San Diego will be used to improve the speed and accuracy of medical diagnostic tests, enable more effective therapeutics for disease treatment, quickly and efficiently decontaminate chemical or biological hazards, improve batteries, and reduce the cost of key industrial processes.

Full article here.