University opens two new research labs - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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University opens two new research labs

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 10:00 pm

The College of Science, Mathematics and Technology at the University of Texas at Brownsville held a grand opening for two separate labs on Thursday that administrators say will aid them in their push to become an emerging research institution in the region.

“This is hard work. You don’t build departments of this stature, of this depth, and this isn’t accomplished over months or years. It happens over decades,” UTB President Dr. Juliet V. Garcia said during the ceremony.

Garcia said that despite the changing dynamic of the university — separation from Texas Southmost College — the programs will not change. The core values remain to “advance the success of our students,” she said.

During the ceremony, Garcia alluded to the merger bill that would combine UTB with UT-Pan American and open up the coffers of the almost $13 billion Permanent University Fund currently available to all schools except UTPA and UTB in the UT System.

The labs, located in the Science, Engineering and Technology Building, are funded by more than $1 million in federal grants and students say the access to equipment will help them test the theories they’ve worked on.

The laboratories are operated by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, according to information provided by the university. It is also a facility of the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy.

Liliana Ruiz-Diaz, a physics graduate student, said she remembers in her first week of college meetings were held in a small office upstairs because “we didn’t have a lab.”

“It’s really different when you have access to an optics laboratory in which you can actually work with the stuff and compare what you see in the book and what is happening on the table,” Ruiz-Diaz said.

Robert Brown, chairman of the External Advisory Committee for the CGWA, said the new lab will put Brownsville on the map for the kind of research it will fuel. The work, he said, will help scientists understand how materials behave in extreme conditions.

“Having the instruments here has opened the doors for us,” said Tyler Trevino, a junior at UTB majoring in chemistry.

The labs will allow students like Trevino to research and experiment with particles at a nano-level, he said.

“It’s a better way of getting the students involved because students learn by doing,” Brown said.

Chamath Dannangoda, a doctoral student at UTB, does research on the magnetic properties and thermal properties of different samples.

“We are very fortunate to work with this machine,” Dannangoda said. “You get the idea, you know the theory and you have the machine to prove what’s happening.”

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