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Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Escuela de Asuntos Ambientales


Puerto Rico Research Training in Cross-Disciplinary Chemical Sciences
June 2013 - May 2016
National Science Foundation – NSF (NSF CHE 1262826)
PI: Dr. Osvaldo Cox
Co-Pi: Dr. Beatriz Zayas
School of Environmental Affairs

Program Abstract

This REU Site is co-funded by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program. This award supports a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site led by Professors Osvaldo Cox and Beatriz Zayas both at Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The REU Site is located at four campuses of the University of Puerto Rico and the Arecibo Observatory. The research projects supported at these Sites entitled, "Research Training in Cross-disciplinary Chemical Sciences" will engage disadvantaged Hispanic STEM students and will bring together five institutions and a multidisciplinary mentoring team to increase the research competitiveness of these chemistry students and improve their numbers in the STEM pipeline in the chemical sciences.

This REU Site anticipates an increase in chemistry majors who will experience research competitiveness, gain confidence, and develop an interest in graduate schools, as well as become professionals who are prepared to enter the STEM workforce. This REU will also benefit the entire community of chemistry students at UMET who can also participate in the REU developmental activities during the academic year. It brings together five institutions and a mentoring team who will increase the research competitiveness of these students and positively impact the STEM pipeline in the chemical sciences.

The core objectives of the project were:

  1. Provide twenty (20) chemistry students with a comprehensive research and orientation program emphasizing, mentoring, orientation in the process to apply and succeed in graduate school, ethics in scientific research, scientific writing, and scientific presentations during the academic year.
  2. Establish a network of cross-disciplinary chemical sciences research mentors focused on student and faculty interaction and student-student communication.
  3. Disseminate research results in local, national and international conferences as well as in peer reviewed publications.
  4. Offer twenty (20) research internships in cross-disciplinary chemical sciences during the summer at five (5) REU sites in Puerto Rico: ◦Universidad Metropolitana (UMET)​
  • University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras (UPR-RP)
  • University of Puerto Rico – Humacao (UPR-H)
  • University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez (UPR-M)
  • Arecibo Observatory (AO)

Reserach Environment

The PI of this Project, Dr. Osvaldo Cox, has had extensive mentoring experience with undergraduates and graduate student during his stay at the Chemistry Department University of UPR-R, UPR-H and at UMET. The Co-PI, Dr. Beatriz Zayas has also extensive mentoring experience with graduate and undergraduate students especially in aspects of research development, presentations, and in transitioning into graduate school. The research environments at all the participating institutions, including the Arecibo Observatory are excellent and will provide the REU interns the opportunity to work with state of the art chemical instrumentation. At all sites REU students will have the opportunity to interact with highly dedicated, well-established mentors, as well as with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows providing the students with different levels of mentoring and support. All REU mentors have an excellent track record of publications with undergraduates, thus giving the participants the opportunity to improve their scientific writing skills. The institution has also a well-established compliance office that provides the necessary mechanism for the students to comply with IRB and bio-safety certifications. IRB Board approved the protocol of the project under the number 01-445-13.

Financial Support

Trainees will receive a stipend during the summer and are expected to work 37.5 hours/week. Students are expected to work for at least 10 hours/week during the academic year.

REU Project Mentors & Research Topics


Dr. Osvaldo Cox: “Synthesis of novel heterocycles as potential pharmacological agents”.
Dr. Ajay Kumar: “Synthesis and characterization of new azapodophyollotoxin derivatives”.
Dr. Mitk’El B. Santiago: “Synthesis of Nanoparticles”.
Dr. Oliva Primera:  “Synthesis and characterization of metallic nanoparticles via wet chemistry”.


Dr. Carlos Cabrera: “Synthesis development of nanomaterials for renewable energy systems.”


Dr. Samuel Hernández: “Metallic Nanostructures in SERS for Chemical and Biological Threats Detection.”


Dr. Antonio Alegría: “Photosensitized oxidation of polyols into valuable products”.

Arecibo Observatory

Dr. Jonathan Friedman and Dr. Shikha Raizada: “Understanding of the lower boundary of the plasma environment of the Earth's ionosphere.”

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