New Awards Highlight the Electron Microscopy Core

The University's investment in new core facilities returns two new awards totaling $9 million.

Jeffrey Rimer portrait in lab

Planning for the Electron Microscopy Core was already underway by Fall of 2022 when President Khator formalized the University's $22 million commitment for new core facilities in five national priority research areas, including Advanced Materials. The goal of the investment to increase UH’s competitiveness for research awards is already coming to fruition with the recent announcement of two major grants from the Welch Foundation totaling $9 million.

$4 million went to Megan Robertson, Cullen College of Engineering Professor, to convert plastic waste into useful materials. Jeffrey Rimer, Abraham E. Dukler Professor of Chemical Engineering and director of the Electron Microscopy Core, received $5 million to establish the Welch Center for Advanced Bioactive Materials Crystallization.

The EMC will play a central role in both of the proposed research projects.

Advancing Advanced Materials at UH

Advanced Materials has historically been a UH strong suit. But success in the field hinges on materials characterization at higher and higher resolution, which requires more and more powerful equipment.

Armed with new instruments, the leaders of the EMC expect industry partners and researchers at other universities will take note. The core will also act as a hub that brings together experimental and computational researchers, leveraging the University’s growing strengths in data science.

Drawn to Houston for its reputation with industry, partners that require the unique instruments that UH boasts are more likely to do their work and research here. That’s a win for the local economy, too. Rimer likens it to the film Field of Dreams, saying “if you build it, they will come.”

Looking Beyond

Seeds were planted for the Electron Microscopy Core as far back as 2018. Filling a critical need for instrumentation, Rimer and professors T. Randall Lee, Francisco Robles-Hernandez and Dr. Jim Meen have been hard at work securing space and identifying equipment to get the core up and running. Assistant Vice President for Research Administration Cris Milligan and Senior Project Manager Danny Guffey in the Office of Research Administration worked collaboratively with UH Facilities, Planning and Construction to prepare and modify the spaces to outfit them for the complex and sensitive new equipment.

The Electron Microscopy Core at UH is pushing research in new directions— in crystals, polymers and other advanced materials. The work done in the core facility will contribute to ongoing medical, industrial and technological advances. They also have plans to establish a dedicated molecular pharmaceutical consortium exclusively for the development of new classes of drugs.