Partnership for Research & Education in Materials (PREM): Cal State LA

The MRSEC connects Cal State LA faculty and students with Penn State faculty and grad mentors who match their research interests.

This partnership between the California State University, Los Angeles and the Center for Nanoscale Science enhances the research and education of materials sciences and engineering at Cal State LA. Its focus is on mentoring, guiding and training undergraduate and master’s students for careers in the field via a comprehensive scientific and educational program that will facilitate and assure the development of a Master’s of Science Degree in Materials Science and Engineering at Cal State LA and establish a bridge structure for Cal State LA students to continue on to PhD studies at Penn State, other leading institutions, or seek employment in the field after graduation.

The partnership integrates three research topics and one educational component as follows: (T1) Magnetic, Electrical, Thermal and Ferroelectric Properties of the Oxygen-isotope Substituted Half-doped Manganites, (T2) Oxygen-evolving Electrocatalysts and Photoelectrocatalysts Immobilized onto Light-absorbing Perovskite Metal Oxides, (T3) Development of Catalytic Nanopumps Utilizing Carbon Nanotubes and Layer-by-Layer Processing and (T4) Development of CSULA’s Master of Science Degree in Materials Science and Engineering and Educational Plan for the PREM. Scientific emphasis is on the development, discovery and application of new materials and materials properties that are important to solving current societal problems. A yearly competitive Seed program provides a means to involve new faculty and regularly renew the research focus of the PREM. The educational program centers on the development of a Master’s of Science degree in Materials Science, including curriculum, prototype classes, instructional materials, and assessment. PREM students are active collaborators in research and receive summer REU internships (undergraduates) and Research Assistantships (MS level) both at CSULA and Penn State. The partnership provides an infrastructure to naturally encourage graduating students to pursue admission at leading institutions to continue their education or seek employment in the field. The day-to-day educational aspects of the proposal include workshops and scientific seminars, a summer retreat, “highlights” development, oral presentation critiquing, and academic advising and mentoring. A summer research experience for academically talented high schools students collaborates with four local minority high schools (Roosevelt, Garfield, Lincoln and Wilson) with over 95% Latino enrollment. Mini-grants are avilable to student groups who develop outreach mechanisms to integrate the community and the PREM center, such as demo presentations, star-gazing parties and science museum/observatory visits involving the participation of local high or grammar schools.

These research and academic activities not only enable Cal State LA to continue its long tradition of educating local students, many from underserved communities, but play a vital role in creating the next generation of scientists and educators whose vision will be to link science priorities to the solving of societal problems.

Cal State LA-PSU Publications

  • Grenalynn C. Ilacas, Alexis  Basa, Ayusmen Sen, Frank A. Gomez, “Enzyme Chemotaxis on Paper-Based Devices,”  Anal. Sci. 2018, 34, 115–119. DOI:


  • David A. Cagan, Arman C. Garcia, Kin Li, K.,  David Ashen-Garry, Abegail C. Tadle, Dong Zhang, Katherine J.  Nelms, Yangyang Liu, Jeffery R. Shallenberger, Joshua J. Stapleton, Matthias Selke. "Chemistry of Singlet Oxygen with a Cadmium-Sulfur Cluster: Physical Quenching versus Photooxidation," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 67–71. DOI:


  • Marc Ong, Quinn Campbell, Ismaila Dabo, Radi AJishi. “First-Principles Investigation of BiVO3 for Thermochemical Water Splitting,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 2019, 44, 1425 - 1430. DOI:


  • Wanlin Zhu, Trent Borman, Kory DeCesaris, Bo Truong, Michelle M. Lieu, Song Won Ko, Peter Mardilovich and Susan Trolier-McKinstry. “Influence of PbO Content on the Dielectric Failure of Nb‐Doped {100}‐Oriented Lead Zirconate Titanate Films”, J. Amer. Cer. Soc. 2019, 102, 1734–1740. DOI:


  • Shirell E. Klein, Joshua D. Sosa, Alexander C. Castonguay, Willmer I. Flores, Lauren D. Zarzar, and Yangyang Liu, Green synthesis of Zr-based metal–organic framework hydrogel composites and their enhanced adsorptive properties, Inorg. Chem. Front., 7, 4813 (2020). DOI: https://10.1039/d0qi00840k

Bold indicated PSU faculty/staff/students.

Cal State LA-PSU Interchange


The first year of the Cal State LA-Penn State partnership. Kicked off with 6 students coming to Penn State to take part in our MRSEC REU program and participate as our inagural class of Penn Pal Program. Faculty interchanges between the two universities officially kicked off. 

  • 6 students (2 M.S.) visit PSU over summer and Cal State LA students become part of the Penn Pal Program
  • Oscar Bernal visited PSU to meet summer faculty. 
  • Mallouk visited Cal State LA and gave two research talks. 
  • Crespi and Dreyer attend PREM retreat and give a research talk, discuss establishing a new degree program, and identify mentoring on trajectories to grad school as a key need. 


The partnership grew with the continuation of Cal State LA students participating in the MRSEC REU and PREM Penn Pals program and increased faculty exchanges between the two universities. Gomez begins to development of a web based activity (Color Control) aimed at tweens as part of the MRSEC and The Franklin Institute's online outreach project Mission: Materials Science.

  • 6 students (2 M.S.) visit PSU over summer. 
  • Dabo seminar at Cal State LA sparked a research interactions with Jishi and Rodriguez.
  • Hudson, Purdy-Drew and Dasgupta hosted a mentoring workshop at CSULA (ideas incorporated into CSULA mentoring inititative). 
  • Jishi attended Graphene and Beyond
  • Li (M.S. with Selke) visited PSU for chacterization. 
  • Montoya attends STEM Open House. 
  • Gomez begins collaboration on MRSEC-TFI museum outreach project. 


Engagement and exchanges continue with a notable outreach interaction during the APS March Meeting with CSULA students and faculty and Penn State faculty working side by side to illustrate how materials science can be fun to kids of all ages. 

  • 6 students (2 M.S.) visit PSU over summer. 
  • CSULA students (Delgado and O'Dea) attend the STEM Open House.
  • PSU CSULA faculty/students meet at APS March Meeting at at CSULA. 
  • Crespi, Hudson, Dreyer, and Mathews attend PREM retreat. 
  • Robinson visits CSULA for seminar and research discussion, with followup fabrication/charcterization at PSU and new collaboration with Y. Liu (MOFs)
  • Shah (M.S.) visited Mallouk lab for synthesis & characterization. 


Deepening the partnership by hosting 7 Cal State LA faculty to have the opportunity to visit Penn State and meet with faculty to grow partnerships and tour facilities that can be used for research collaboration. 

  • Seven CSULA faculty visited PSU in Spring for research seminars (3) and one-on-one discussions with PSU faculty. The other 4 will give seminars later. 
  • Bernal met with Zhiqiang Mao at APS Meeting on ruthenate NMR. 
  • 2 students visit PSU over summer
  • Crespi and Dreyer attend PREM Retreat
  • Bachman gives MRSEC seminar in fall. 


"In response to COVID-19, we made a rapid pivot for our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) from an in-person 10-week research experience to a virtual research preparation and professional development program, which was designed to prepare science and engineering undergraduates and master’s students for their entrance into the workplace or their continuation in a graduate program. The overarching goal of this virtual experience was to develop and hone professional skills that are often not explicitly taught in science and engineering classes." - Preliminary abstract from 2021 American Society for Engineering Education.

  • 11 students students (3 M.S.) participated in PSU's virtual REU: Professional development and Research Preparation (10 weeks, via zoom). 
  • Cal State LA (Bachman) hosted Cruse (NCCU PREM student) for a virtual REU.
  • Crespi and Dreyer attend Cal State LA PREM virtual Retreat
  • Duenas attended the PSU virtual STEM Open House
  • Mathews assisted 3 students (Duenas, Valencia, and Barron) on their personal statements.