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UTPA faculty member named as a USDA 2011 E. (Kika) de la Garza Fellow
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
(956) 665-7995
Posted: 05/09/2011
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Dr. Javier Macossay, associate professor of chemistry at The University of Texas-Pan American, has been selected as one of six people nationwide to participate as a Science Fellow in the United States Department of Agriculture's 2011 E. (Kika) de la Garza Fellowship Program.


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- Dr. Javier Macossay

Overall, 21 participants were selected for this year's fellowship program, which also includes Education and High School Fellows. Fellows are highly accomplished faculty or staff members at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) nationwide who are chosen based on the compatibility of their research interests with USDA mission areas, as well as the value their experiences will add to their institutions' educational capacities during the fellowship. Through partnerships fostered by the fellowship program, USDA and HSIs are better prepared to address educational challenges faced by the Hispanic community and to promote services and employment opportunities offered by USDA agencies while diversifying the USDA’s workforce.

"It is an honor to have received this prestigious fellowship," said Macossay, who joined the UTPA faculty in 2003 and teaches undergraduate and graduate level organic chemistry lectures and undergraduate organic chemistry laboratories.

As a science fellow, Macossay will be able to collaborate with leading scientists from USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), one of the world's premier scientific organizations, where he will learn about state-of-the art agricultural research that solves problems affecting the Hispanic community. Fellows also share their expertise with students at their respective institutions – motivating Hispanic students to pursue careers in agriculture, science, research and technology. Science fellows attend an orientation in Washington, D.C. where Macossay said he will be able to meet with federal officers to learn more on how the USDA operates and the types of grants available for his research. Subsequently, he will be able to establish collaborations at one of the USDA's ARS centers he will visit.

An expert on polymer chemistry, Macossay does research involving the formation of polymer nanofibers through electrospinning for biomedical applications, so synthetic polymers or biopolymers (polymers obtained from natural sources) can be used to obtain tissue scaffolds, to evaluate their mechanical properties and cell compatibility.

"Investigation of biopolymers for these applications could promote their use in high value products if the materials are proven useful, which is an objective of the USDA," Macossay said. "In addition to these potential benefits, there is the opportunity to educate our students at UTPA by doing exciting research in areas of interest to the USDA and my research laboratory, benefiting everybody."

The De la Garza Fellowship Program was established in 1998 to help advance the USDA's relationship with higher education institutions. It was designed to enhance fellows' professional growth while fostering workforce diversity and strengthening the nation's capacity to provide high quality education and increased opportunities for Hispanic Americans.

The fellowship’s namesake, de la Garza, served six consecutive terms in the Texas House of Representatives before spending 32 years (1965-1997) as a leading U.S. congressman from Texas. The first Hispanic congressman elected from Texas' 15th District, de la Garza served as chairman of the Congressional Agriculture Committee from 1981-1994, playing a key role in overhauling the agricultural lending system, implementing federal farm crop insurance and commodity futures reform, reorganizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and providing numerous aid packages for American and international agriculture. He also co-founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

For more information on the E. (Kika) de la Garza Fellowship program visit its website.