Meet Dr. Karen Lozano

Dr. Karen Lozano is a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She was the first Latina woman to receive a Ph.D from Rice University. She founded a company called FibeRio, she was awarded “Engineer of the Year” and was invited to the White House in 2013 to meet President Obama. I got to ask Dr. Lozano about her accomplishments.

What classes do you teach at UTRGV?

I am mostly in charge of Introduction and Intermediate Nanotechnology, Polymer Engineering, and Polymer Processing. I am also mostly in charge of Undergraduate Research

You were the first Latina woman to receive a Ph.D from Rice University what was that experience like?

Luckily, I wasn't aware of that, I found out a few days after commencement. At graduation, I walked the stage to be hooded with my son dressed also with a cap and gown, we made it to the first page of the newspaper and they took on the task to find those facts. I believe it could have been quite an extra responsibility if I would have been aware, I knew I was one of the firsts never thought the first and actually didn't pay too much attention to that, was too busy working on my classes and research.

Tell me about FibeRio technology, the company you founded

We invented a new way to industrially produce nanofibers. These fibers were known to provide exciting potential in many fields, energy, filtration, medical and others though there was not a method to produce them at an industrial scale, the available methods could produce minute amounts enough for exciting results at the laboratory scale. The Forcespinning method opened up the opportunity to translate results to practical applications and therefore benefit society rather than remaining an academic curiosity.

How did it feel to be awarded “Engineer of the Year” at the Great Minds in STEM HENAAC Conference and why do you think you were awarded this honor?

It was a very humble experience, I have been working very hard since I can remember. I have been driven by many factors, at the beginning driven to be able to provide for my family and parents, I was thought by them to be very responsible and value opportunities, to show a very strong work ethics and always leave a positive mark on everything you do, grew up listening to my mom that God has given us talents and we better use these, at the end of the day it is 99 percent hard work, one percent talent. Nothing happens without the hours invested. I then worked for my students, I realize how exciting and how many doors were opened to them by having research experience and the opportunity that it encompasses to develop a myriad of skills, persistence, ability to face failure (99 percent of the time research fails and is better because then you can ask yourself questions, and redesign your path, if successful at the one time might not be such a great learning experience), work ethics and many other values. In the pursue of your goals you don’t pay attention to the success stories and then all of a sudden you realize you are being considered for awards like the Engineer of the Year, it is really an honor and a strong motivation to further continue impacting young lives and promote well being of our society through technological inventions.

In 2013 you were invited to the White House to meet President Obama, why were you invited and what was the experience like?

Another great honor, imagine a little girl from Mexico that once thought of being a scientist, now receiving an invitation from the White House. He invited several entrepreneurs that have been providing job opportunities in the US. It was a great experience to sit in a room with eight other entrepreneurs and talk to the POTUS for about one hour.