Contact: Whitney Richter, Director of Marketing and Communications, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 254-710-7539
Written by: Gary Stokes, Office of the Vice Provost for Research
WACO, Texas (September 20, 2018) – From the latest life-saving medical devices and therapies to the electronic wizardry literally at our finger tips on a smartphone, technology clearly plays a huge role in the rich quality of life we all enjoy. That’s a fact well understood by decision-makers at the National Science Foundation (NSF) which, together with the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies, supplied 44 percent of all funds spent nationally on basic research in 2017.
While NSF supports researchers at every level of experience, the agency places a high priority on cultivating the work of promising scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians through typically five-year, Early Career Development Grants, known collectively as CAREER grants.
In 2009, Dr. Lorin Matthews was a young astrophysicist studying dusty plasmas at CASPER, Baylor’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research, where today she serves as associate director. Her CAREER grant proposal, "Charging and Coagulation of Dust Grains in Astrophysical and Laboratory Environments," caught the attention of NSF reviewers, netting her a $437,000 grant to further study how asteroids and planets coalesce from the rings of dust particles that surround young stars. Delving into that mystery could help refine our knowledge of the behavior of similar dusty plasmas commonly used in industry. Matthews says her award was a watershed event in her development as a scientist.
“The CAREER award is aptly named,” Matthews said. “It truly did allow me to jump start my career, providing funds for a post-doctoral research assistant, graduate students, travel to conferences, publication costs, as well as key research equipment. Having funding in place for five years was a luxury which allowed me to focus on my research.”
In 2014, Baylor biochemist Dr. Bryan Shaw also was awarded a five-year, $405,000 CAREER grant to support his study of metalloproteins—proteins that contain metal ions. Previous research suggests that some metalloproteins may play a role in the development of some devastating neurological disorders. Shaw and the research group he heads are working to precisely measure and then modify metalloproteins’ net electrical charge. Shaw believes that altering the charge may reduce the protein’s toxicity to brain tissue—as occurs in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease—and might one day prevent or even reverse the formation of toxic protein plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
That same year saw associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Dr. Seung Kim win a CAREER grant totaling $400,000 for development of a low-cost biosensor capable of detecting substances associated with specific diseases and disorders in specimens of a patient’s blood. In detecting these so-called biomarkers, the biosensor can reveal the presence of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, HIV, as well as a number of cancers, and do so at a stage when the conditions are most successfully treated. Kim sees his biosensor as having the potential to reduce the need for expensive laboratory tests and to eliminate the fretful wait for results, and it will be a “point-of-care” device that can be used in a physician’s office or even at the patient’s bedside.
Two Baylor investigators recently were notified of their selection to receive 2018 CAREER grants. Assistant professor of physics Dr. Howard Lee has received a five-year, $500,000 CAREER Award for development of ultra-thin, nanoscale optical films with electrically tunable properties. The films, called metasurfaces, are only a few hundred atoms thick and have the potential to dramatically reduce the size and weight of a vast range of optical and electro-optical devices, while also improving their performance.
Baylor assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Caleb Martin also received confirmation this year of a five-year, $650,000 CAREER grant awarded to further his research into synthesizing analogues of benzene containing boron. This class of materials is considered to have the potential to improve the durability and performance of organic photovoltaic solar cells and organic light emitting diodes used in such devices as smart phones, TVs and tablets. Martin further sees his work as having the potential to help bring electrical power to millions of people living in remote or underdeveloped regions of the world.
Vice provost for research Dr. Truell Hyde lauds Baylor’s CAREER grant recipients and regards getting the award as an accomplishment that can dramatically advance the careers of researchers who are just starting out.
“CAREER grants are among the federal grants most sought-after by young researchers. Besides the funding itself — which is very nice — winning a CAREER grant tells recipients that these agencies have high regard for their abilities as researchers and consider their work to be important. That’s a huge boost to any researcher’s self-confidence and reputation,” Hyde said, adding, “and it’s pretty good for their institution as well.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES
The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University's oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and seven academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
With more than 10 percent of Baylor University's freshman class pursuing major courses of study in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the focus remains on preparing graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian world view. ECS majors include bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. Among ECS graduate programs are Master of Science degrees in all disciplines, a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering and several dual-degree programs. The Teal Residential College for Engineering and Computer Science, in which students and faculty live, fosters the pursuit of wisdom, academic excellence, and meaningful relationships for the development of diverse, innovative leaders.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) assists faculty members from all academic units in identifying, obtaining and managing the funding needed to support their research and scholarship. Internal 'seed' funding, matching grant proposal funding, searchable online funding databases, grant writing seminars, proposal support and trave awards to national funding agencies are only a portion of what is provided by the various units comprising the OVPR. Additionally, the Vice Provost for Research oversees the ethical conduct of research and assists researchers in maintaining compliance with applicable policies, laws and regulations as well as providing support in establishing interdisciplinary / international collaborations and industry partnerships.
The OVPR acts as Baylor's representative in pursuing partnerships and collaborative agreements with entities outside the university. The office negotiates sponsored research agreements with industry on behalf of faculty and pursues research, technology transfer and the commercialization of technology. The OVPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss collaborative research and scholarship pursuits that can advance the academic mission of Baylor University to achieve R1/T1 status.
The OVPR also manages and operates the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a three-story, 330,000-square-foot facility focused on interdisciplinary/international research, industry/university collaborations, business incubation/acceleration/commercialization, advanced workforce training and STEM educational research and outreach.