First-ever Texan/German symposium opens doors

October 14, 2004

HOUSTON, Oct. 14, 2004 - Collaborations between the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Germany and the University of Houston are providing impetus for polymers research developments that range from improving display devices to genetic profiling.

Opening the door to establishing a future joint research program between the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) and UH, Rigoberto Advincula, associate professor of chemistry at UH, has organized a first-ever joint symposium between a Texas research group and the MPI-P held Oct. 18-19 in Mainz, Germany.

"This is a very important collaboration for UH because the MPI-P is the best place in the world to do polymer research," Advincula said. "The institute is recognized by practically everyone in the polymer field, and the reputation of Max Planck Institutes is very high in terms of specific research fields, with one for almost every important branch of scientific field and interdisciplinary research."

In the spirit of renowned physicist Max Planck, a 1919 Nobel Prize winner, who proved time and again that there were new things to be discovered in science, the symposium is hosted by the MPI-P, located on the campus of the Johannes Gutenberg University. It is an opportunity for Advincula, three doctoral students from his polymer group and a research associate staff member to present their research and to visit and meet with the directors of the MPI-P departments. Wolfgang Knoll, director of material science at MPI-P, is leading his group as the other half of this joint symposium.

Advincula and Knoll already enjoy a strong collaborative relationship. In April, the two researchers hosted a symposium on "Nanostructured Materials Based on Polyelectrolytes, Colloids and Nanoparticles in Ultrathin Films" at the American Chemical Society meeting (see, followed by a visit to UH from Knoll, who gave a lecture in the department of chemistry. In addition, they have had a joint postdoctoral fellow since 2000, and numerous individual exchange visits between the two groups have taken place to strengthen collaborations that have resulted in several papers each year since 1997. This will be the first-ever formal joint symposium.

"This exchange of visits and collaborations is in line with creating a future joint research program with the MPI-P that would involve new research directions in polymer materials, future grant submissions and perhaps a joint doctoral program," Advincula said. "Knoll's group is very strong in macromolecular assemblies and biophysics, and we hope to gain more interaction in this area."

New polymers materials have practical applications, such as in coatings, semiconductors, sensor materials for biomedical devices, DNA chip substrates, bioimplant materials and materials for display technologies used in advanced electronics.
Founded in 1983, the MPI-P followed a recommendation by the German Science Council that an interdisciplinary institution of polymer research should be established in view of the importance of macromolecules in science, technology and industry. The central thrust of the institute is basic research in the field of polymeric materials, with departments in polymer physics, solid-state chemistry, polymer spectroscopy, synthetic macromolecular chemistry, material science and polymer theory.

Along with Advincula, three doctoral students, Jason Locklin, Tim Fulghum and Derek Patton, and a research associate, Akira Baba, will present research at the symposium that includes "Conjugated Polymer Network Approach in Polymer Ultrathin Films: Synthesis, Patterning, and Devices" and "Multiply-bound Polymer Chains: From Synthesis to Surface Properties." The Knoll group will reciprocate with reporting new developments in "Surface Plasmon Spectroscopy and Fluorescence, DNA Hybridization Sensors, Impedance Analysis of Biomimetic Membranes and New Polymer and Nanoparticle Materials for Biosensing."

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

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