UTRGV professor, Rice graduate advances nano technology through startup

Immigrant advances nanofiber technology

She’s a mother, a professor, one of the nation’s most recognized engineers. She’s also a Mexican immigrant.

The U.S. government is hoping to attract more people just like her.

“Hard work. You’re never going to go wrong with hard work,” UTRGV Engineering Professor Dr. Karen Lozano said. "It’s always going to pay off, no matter what. But you always have to climb the ladder.”

As a child growing up in Mexico, Dr. Lozano chased big dreams. She was the first woman in her family to graduate from college in Monterrey, and the first Hispanic woman at Rice University to obtain a doctorate in engineering.

Lozano obtained a fellowship at Rice in 1994. Since then, she's had to overcome language and cultural barriers, living on little money, pursuing a career while pregnant and doing it all before her visas expired.

"I didn’t want to disappoint anybody that had given me the opportunity and I knew that being a female mechanical engineer… it was very hard for me to find a job back home,” she said.

With failure off the table, and with the help of her students, Lozano founded FibeRio at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; a startup that makes it cheaper and more efficient to produce a variety of products using nanofiber technology.

“As an engineer you are always thinking ‘OK yes, my role is to gain scientific knowledge to develop technology, to benefit society,'" she said.

Her work has gained national attention, winning multiple awards and even a meeting with the President; who, amid a heated debate over immigration, recently announced plans to expand a visa program for entrepreneurs just like her.

“I don’t know who should worry more,” she said. “The countries that are losing their people or the United States that is gaining talent?”

Lozano said that she wants to continue innovating by inspiring others. She’s embarking on a new project to mentor kids through a YouTube page titled Karen’s Lab where she lectures about creativity.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security’s International Entrepreneur Rule is in its proposal stage and will be accepting input from the public to help define the department’s visa guidelines during the next six weeks. It's a program aimed at attracting foreigners interested in creating startups by providing a two-year permit followed by a three-year extension. You may find more information at www.uscis.gov.

(© 2016 KENS)


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