About the GARCIA Center
The Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces consists of an interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG). The focus of the Center is the design of polymer thin film properties through precise control of interfacial structure. The uniqueness of the investigations is the synthesis and study of engineered interfaces. At these interfaces, molecular-level control of surface energy via chemical functionalities, symmetry, and order is accomplished. This is a significant departure from existing experiments on semiconductor, metal and metal oxide surfaces, with little or no control of surface interactions. The issues to be addressed at the Center are:
A central goal of this Center is to address technological problems related to polymer thin films, and to develop cutting-edge enabling technologies that take existing polymeric systems and markedly improve their properties.
The properties of a polymer thin film at a surface depend, in a complex manner, on the interfacial interactions that determine the chain reactivity, conformation, and dynamics at the interface. Designing polymer thin films with specific surface properties requires a detailed understanding of the underlying physical principles and the ability to control interfacial interaction parameters. These issues are also pertinent to biopolymers, where the alteration of substrate surface energy has dramatic effects on protein and DNA adsorption, and on cell adhesion. Designing a novel polymer interface requires state-of-the-art synthesis, characterization and imaging instrumentation capable of observing chemical and morphological variation on the scale of nanometers. The Center therefore has special capabilities in several areas:
The strength of the Garcia MRSEC in the areas described above exceed the capabilities of a single national institution. The core institutions of the Garcia MRSEC, Brookhaven National Laboratory, The State University of New York at Stony Brook, Polytechnic University, The City University of New York at Queens College, the College of Staten Island, and Lehman College, are all located in the New York Metropolitan area. Students and staff from all institutions can easily commute between the different sites and obtain access to the laboratories. Additional members of the MRSEC which collaborate closely with the core members even though they are not geographically close are: The University of Washington at Seattle, McGill University in Montreal, and the Korean Advanced Institute of Technology, Seoul. Additional supplementary funding exists to allow frequent exchange of students and post-docs with these locations as well.
Three industrial laboratories participate in the MRSEC: EXXON/Mobile Research and Engineering, Kodak Research, and Hilord Chemical. These companies provide financial support for basic science research within the MRSEC, allow staff members to serve on thesis committees of MRSEC students, and collaborate on basic science research projects and publications.
Then, MRSEC serves as a nucleus for initiating research with industry. Special workshops are organized to promote dialog between area industries and leading researchers in various fields of polymer thin film technologies. Emphasis is placed on contacts with small to medium companies which cannot afford the facilities available at the MRSEC. Applied projects which are a frequent development of this research are further developed in contracts, which are separate from the MRSEC, with the respective companies. These contracts, managed by the Research Foundation, define the intellectual property agreements, patent rights and disclosure restrictions. Matching funding from New York State through the SPIR (Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence) program are available to encourage these interactions.
One of the central goals of the Garcia MRSEC is the integration of research and education programs. Graduate students and research associates form the backbone of the research program. Joint colloquia, seminars, and an open lab policy encourage students from all campuses of the MRSEC to mingle and collaborate on projects. The graduate extra-mural program permits students working full time in technological industries to combine fundamental research in the MRSEC with applied research at their work locations for degree credits. The MRSEC- REU program is used to integrate undergraduate students into the research program. Special funds are allocated to allow them to publish and travel to scientific meetings. High school students are introduced to research in the MRSEC via several mentoring programs: the Westinghouse, now Intel, Science Competition Program, the Simmons High School Summer Institute, and the YES program at Polytechnic University. The Science Fair, in collaboration with the National Plastics Center and Museum, is aimed at promoting polymer education at the junior high school level. In order to encourage participation of underrepresented groups the Garcia MRSEC coordinates with other NSF sponsored programs aimed at increasing minority participation in science and engineering such as AMP (Alliance for Minority Participation), WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and RAIRE (Research for Undergraduates).