Rice alumna Karen Lozano elected to NAE

UTRGV professor recognized for contributions to nanofiber research and commercialization.

Headshot of Karen Lozano

Karen Lozano, who earned two degrees in mechanical engineering (MECH) from Rice University and went on to teach and conduct research in nanofibers at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Lozano was recognized by the NAE for her “contributions to nanofiber research and commercialization, and mentoring of undergraduate students from underserved populations.” She is the Julia Beecherl Endowed Professor of MECH and founding director of the Nanotechnology Center at UTRGV in Edinburg.

A native of Mexico, Lozano earned her B.S. in MECH from Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) in 1993 and came to Rice the following year. She was recruited from UDEM by, and joined the research group of, Enrique Barrera, now professor of materials science and nanoengineering.

“Karen was a leader in my research team. She was always innovative. Her research on nanofibers is a unique story and the research led to her starting a company and later selling it. Her work was broad in scope and she developed new materials and a deeper understanding of interactions between nanoparticles and polymers,” said Barrera.

Lozano earned her M.S. in 1996 and her Ph.D. in 1999, when the department was called mechanical engineering and materials science. She was the first woman from Mexico to earn a doctorate in a STEM field at Rice. In 2000, she joined the faculty at the University of Texas–Pan American (later, UTRGV).

In 2019, Lozano received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, administered by the NSF on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2020.

She is an inventor with 17 patents and several pending. Lozano was co-founder and chief technology officer of FibeRio Technologies Corp., a Rio Grande Valley-based company that developed the industrial production of nanofibers, which she sold in 2016.

“Karen is a successful educator, researcher and mentor.  She stands out as an all-service academic. I have always been extremely proud of her,” Barrera said.

Lozano joins 105 other 2023 NAE members from the U.S. and 18 members from other countries, bringing U.S. membership to 2,420 and international members to 319.