CMaT Community Secures Funding for Continued Research in the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Achievement date: 
2018
Outcome/accomplishment: 

The Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT) Engineering Research Center (ERC), based at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) in Atlanta, received a $300,000 supplemental grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a range of efforts that enabled continued research progress in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The relief efforts were highlighted in Science magazine.

Impact/benefits: 

Through the NSF grant, student researchers from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) were hosted in CMaT labs at GT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Overall, the exchanges enabled by the relief programs facilitated new collaborations and knowledge transfer within and across CMaT sites.

Explanation/Background: 

During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, nine faculty members from UPRM, a sister UPR campus in Río Piedras, and the University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie obtained temporary haven through relief funding secured by the University of Florida, Gainesville. Maribelle Domenech, bioengineering professor and co-principal investigator for CMaT, was among those faculty receiving aid.

Under supplemental funding CMaT received from the NSF, Domenech placed UPRM doctoral student Ana Milena Reyes Ramos in the lab of Sean Palecek to continue her work. Palecek, a professor of chemical and biological engineering and CMaT associate director for research at UW, was able to offer Ramos the appropriate laboratory conditions necessary to complete her research, as Ramos’ lab at UPRM no longer offered sterile conditions. In his comments in Science magazine, Palecek spoke of research limitations on the island following Hurricane Maria, such as geographic isolation and the ability to maintain properly controlled lab conditions.

Palecek hosted two other PhD students from UPRM. As a result of the combined efforts, nine faculty members and eight graduate students benefited from assistance, along with more than two dozen undergraduates.