Awards and Accolades - July 2009

Four BWF Awardees Receive Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers

President Obama named 100 beginning researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The recipient scientists and engineers will receive their awards in the Fall at a White House ceremony.

Among the recipients are three BWF awardees:  Harmit Malik (Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease), Jeremy Reiter, (Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences), Erica Ollmann Saphire (Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences,  Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease), and Adrienne Stiff-Roberts (Student Science Enrichment Program).
 
The Presidential Early Career Awards embody the high priority the Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals and contribute to all sectors of the economy.  Nine Federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious young scientists and engineers—researchers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for strengthening America’s leadership in science and technology and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.
 
The awards, established by President Clinton in February 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: Pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. Winning scientists and engineers receive up to a five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions. 

BWF Awardees Receive Gates Grand Challenges Explorations Grants

Jen-Tsan Chi, Duke Medical Center
Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infections Disease
When malaria parasites infect different human cells, including liver and red blood cells, it is thought that microRNAs are important developmental cues that facilitate specific events in the parasite life cycle.  Dr. Chi will test whether expressing liver-specific microRNAs within red blood cells will trick the parasite into undergoing liver-stage development, leading to its death.

Craig Crews, Yale University
New Investigator in Pharmacology
For viral replication, HIV viruses are dependent upon proteins, called proteases, to appropriately cleave peptides and form functional viral particles.  Dr. Crews will attempt to exploit these proteases by designing a drug that will cleave only to HIV protease and release a cytotoxin that results in programmed cell death.

Manoj Duraisingh, Harvard School of Public Health
Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infections Disease
Dr. Duraisingh will utilize RNAi screening to identify critical determinants in human red blood cells (erythrocytes) that are required for invasion and growth of the malaria parasite. 

Kasturi Haldar, University of Notre Dame
New Investigator in Parasitology, New Initiatives in Malaria
Dr. Haldar will rapidly screen malaria parasite genes that are essential for invasion and growth in human red blood cells. Characterizing these proteins may reveal novel vaccine targets for blood stage infection

Reuben Harris, University of Minnesota
Hitchings-Elion Fellow
A high HIV mutation rate enables escape from powerful immune responses and anti-retroviral drugs. Dr. Harris will test the hypothesis that HIV requires the human APOBEC3G protein to maintain a high mutation rate necessary for HIV survival. Inhibiting this protein may slow the mutation rate and make the virus more susceptible to immune responses.

Kyu Rhee, Weill Cornell Medical College
Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences
Dr. Rhee will test the theory that tuberculosis utilizes metabolosomes, which are protein-based metabolic structures, to enter into, maintain, and exit from latency. Understanding how metabolosomes work will aid in development of drugs that target TB.

Loren Walensky, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences
Dr. Walensky will apply a new chemical technology to engineer structurally stable HIV-1 antigens for vaccine development and will test whether preserving the critical biologically active shape of HIV-1 polypeptides will yield neutralizing antibodies upon vaccination with his laboratory’s synthetic immunogens.

Bottomley wins Presidential Award for Excellence

Dr. Laura Bottomley, director of K-12 Engineering Outreach Program at North Carolina State University and a recipient of the Student Science Enrichment Program, has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

The awards honor the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering and who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields. Dr. Bottomley was one of 22 individuals and organizations honored July 9 by President Barack Obama for excellence in mentoring.

In her role as director of K-12 Engineering Outreach Programs at NC State, Bottomley reaches more than 5,000 students, 200 teachers and 500 parents each year. The programs she leads include summer camps for K-12 students; programs that send undergraduates and graduate students into schools to work with elementary and middle school students; training sessions for NC State engineering alumni who want to be volunteer teachers in their communities; and assistance for K-12 teachers who want to introduce engineering concepts to their young students.

Bottomley also directs NC State’s Women in Engineering program, which works to boost the number of women engineers in academia and industry, and acts as a consultant to the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction and Wake County Public Schools.

BWF Board Member George Langford receives alumni award from Illinois Institute of Technology

George M. Langford, dean of Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has received the 2009 Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The nationally recognized cell biologist and neuroscientist was one of 20 alumni recently feted at a special ceremony in Chicago.

“I am honored to be recognized by my alma mater,” says Dr. Langford, who earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in cell biology at IIT in 1969 and 1971, respectively. “IIT’s commitment to interprofessional, technology-focused curriculum greatly changed the way I saw the world. My experiences there prepared me for a life of professional achievement and service to society.”

IIT lauded Dr. Langford for his personal success, outstanding contributions to science and continuing recognition by his colleagues.

Prior to joining SU last summer, Dr. Langford served as both dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and distinguished professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He previously held leadership positions at Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Howard University, UMass-Boston and the National Science Foundation. His research encompasses cellular mechanisms of learning and memory and the manner by which they are impaired by Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. A proponent of diversity in the classroom, he has served as inaugural chair of the minorities affairs committee of the American Society for Cell Biology and was nominated by President Clinton to the National Science Board, for which he has chaired numerous committees.

Dr. Langford holds an honorary degree from Beloit College in Wisconsin and is featured in Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century (Oryx Press, 1996), where he credits IIT for his professional success. Langford completed postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

At SU, Dr. Langford is identifying new priorities for The College of Arts and Sciences around the themes of innovative scholarship, interdisciplinary collaboration and enterprising research. “My goal is to make us the country’s premier residential liberal arts college,” he says. The College of Arts and Sciences is SU’s oldest and largest college, accounting for more than a third of the entire faculty and undergraduate student body.

Source:  Syracuse University News Office.