Where Legends Are Made

National Awards Help Propel Young Professors

Early in their careers, four professors at The University of Alabama received national recognition for leading-edge research that will advance knowledge and improve the education and experience of students.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, three different federal agencies providing funding to the four professors from four different fields.

  • Dr. Jared Allred, assistant professor, received a grant from the 2017 Early Career Research Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate properties of novel metal compounds and develop a new way to analyze certain aspects of these materials.
  • Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan, assistant professor of biological sciences, was awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to continue her work in discovering how bacterial immune systems ward off bacteriophages, or viruses that specifically attack bacteria.
  • Dr. Andrew Lemmon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was selected by the Office of Naval Research within the U.S. Department of the Navy for a Young Investigator Award, which he will couple with his research into power electronics to contribute to closing known technology gaps in the Navy’s current 30-year ship building plan.
  • Dr. Shreyas S. Rao, the Reichhold-Shumaker Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will lead a pioneering bioengineering project a with funding from a NSF CAREER Award to engineer environments that mimic conditions in the brain to gain insight into this process in metastatic breast cancer.

“These awards validate the top-tier faculty who work to improve society through research, outreach and education at the University, and we are proud of their achievements,” said Dr. John C. Higginbotham, interim vice president for research and economic development.

Allred’s project is one of 59 proposals selected for funding from more than 700 submissions to the energy department for the program that supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers. The grant will assist Allred and his students in understanding new materials with unique properties needed to meet future energy and information needs.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Currently, 26 UA faculty from disciplines across campus received NSF CAREER Awards during their tenure. Both awards in 2018 are fundamental research projects dealing with healthcare.

Through her award, Hatoum-Aslan hopes to better understand how bacteria and viruses battle each other and, in the process, devise new strategies to combat antibiotic-resistant infections. With his award, Rao wants to understand why metastatic breast cancer cells lodging in the brain may stay dormant and later become active, which could lead to development of therapeutic approaches that essentially target these cells.

Similar to the others, the purpose of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program is to support early-career academic researchers whose work demonstrates significant future promise that aligns with the Navy’s needs. Lemmon was one of 31 recipients in 2018, and his lab will help the Navy understand and resolve challenges needed to make a long-term shift toward electric propulsion for some ships.

The work of these professors showcases the progressive and transformative experiences UA’s top-tier faculty receive to create a lasting impact nationwide.