IUPUC professor named Fulbright scholar

IUPUC assistant professor and Division of Science head James Mendez has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award in chemistry for the 2022-2023 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, IUPUC announced Wednesday.

Mendez is among more than 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research and/or teach abroad for the 2022-2023 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Fulbrighters engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions.

In February 2023, Mendez will travel to Bratislava, Slovakia to work with Ivan Simkovic, a principal research scientist at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, on a system for 3D printing composites made from chitin, a naturally occurring polymer. This basic research could provide a framework for both renewable and biologically compatible 3D printed materials. In addition to the research, Mendez and Simkovic are planning several outreach programs at surrounding schools and colleges to discuss modern applications of 3D printing.

“I’m really excited to work with some terrific colleagues on a project that combines two of my favorite research areas: 3D printing and renewable polymers. My family is also thrilled at the chance to explore Bratislava, although my wife and I are a little nervous about traveling with a newborn – our daughter is due this July!”

In 2017, Mendez received a Fulbright to teach a graduate class in biopolymers in Estonia as well as continue research with chitin from underutilized sources in that region. Chitin has been shown to be very effective at healing wounds, so he focused on improving the existing capabilities of chitin by using electrospinning to make minuscule fibers with a large surface area that is ideal for contact with skin.

“We are elated that the transformative research Dr. Mendez has been conducting with chitin has been recognized again by the Fulbright committee, and look forward to seeing the fruits of his work in Slovakia when he returns next summer,” said Reinhold Hill, IUPUC vice chancellor and dean.