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Touhami Receives NSF Grant to Purchase Research Microscope
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXASOCTOBER 1, 2013 The National Science Foundation has awarded an equipment grant to a professor working in the recently opened Biomedical Research and Health Professions Building II.
 
Dr. Ahmed Touhami, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy since 2009 at The University of Texas at Brownsville, received a $276,233 grant from the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation Program for the acquisition of a top-of-the line microscopy technique. 
 
Touhami, the grant’s principal investigator, will acquire a multi-functional Integrated Fluorescence/Atomic Force Microscope to measure biophysical, chemical and physical properties at the nanoscale for single molecules. The university has not had this kind of equipment before.
 
“I am so happy because it comes in time with a new lab and I was waiting for a few years to buy this equipment,” said Touhami. “I love doing this kind of research. I like to give this kind of knowledge and expertise to the students here.”
 
Touhami said new fluorescence and atomic force microscopy techniques will be used to investigate a single biological molecule such as a protein, a DNA molecule or a yeast cell, to study their nanoscale structures.
 
“We will be able to unravel the molecular mechanisms of these soft machines,” he said. “For example, we will explore the molecular mechanisms behind bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation that afflict millions of people worldwide each year.”
 
Joining Touhami on the grant are co-principal investigators Dr. Karen Martirosyan, Associate Professor in the UTB Department of Physics and Astronomy; Dr. Emilio Garrido, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Gene Therapy in the Department of Biomedicine; Dr. Khalid Lafdi, Professor of Materials Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dayton Research Institute and Dr. Vernita Gordon, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at  The University of Texas at Austin.
 
“Shared use of the instrument will promote multi-institutional, inter-disciplinary collaborations that will enhance the educational experience of many undergraduate and graduate students of participating universities,” said Touhami. “The availability of this multi-users instrument at this minority serving institution will have an enormous impact on research capabilities, productivity and competitiveness of several research programs and on the entire research community in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.”
 
Touhami was born in Morocco and studied in France at Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1988 and a master’s degree in physics in June 1990 and earned a doctoral degree in physics in 1993 with the thesis “Spin-labeling Study of Solid Surfaces Modified by Polymers Particularly Modified for the Bioseparation.”

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