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Three faculty receive prestigious NSF awards

September 25, 2007

Faculty members Rahul Singh, Andrew Ichimura and Teaster BairdThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has recognized three professors with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award this year. The awards, totaling $1,918,392, were given to Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Teaster Baird, Jr., Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Andrew Ichimura and Assistant Professor of Computer Science Rahul Singh.

The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award for new faculty. It recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of faculty who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the future. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative career development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of their institution's mission.

Baird will use his award of $827,790 to provide high school students with stipends that will allow them to work with him in his lab over several successive summers. His lab examines how specific enzymes called serine proteases recognize their targets in metabolic activity.

"I am a big proponent of outreach, particularly to minority students," said Baird who credits the teachers he has had for recognizing his ability and encouraging him to pursue a career in science. In addition to the high school program, Baird will apply his funding for equipment and supplies required in his research as well as for community outreach. He hopes to connect with their high school science instructors so that their students can be exposed to research early in their academic careers and see that it is a viable and exciting option. "The best thing I can teach them is that they shouldn't close the door to opportunity themselves."

Ichimura plans to use his $589,548 CAREER funding to support undergraduate and graduate research in his lab and to purchase equipment essential to research with nanoscale materials. His research focuses on making nanoscale materials with novel electrical properties, particularly alkali metal doped zeolites, porous minerals with free electrons that may find practical applications as detectors or sensors.

"This award will allow us to create and sustain a robust and creative research environment in materials and surface chemistry that will provide unique training and educational opportunities for SF State students," Ichimura said.

Singh's CAREER award of $501,054 will be applied toward the development of algorithms and techniques that allow such biochemical data as the structure of molecules to be stored, queried, retrieved and interacted with via computers. As director of the computer science component of SF State's Computing for Life Sciences program, Singh is dedicated to establishing the field of molecular informatics to increase the impact of computer science in biological and pharmaceutical research and development.

"The hallmark of modern research is that it often occurs at intersections with different disciplines," said Singh. "This allows us to think and solve problems from totally new perspectives. This is enormously exciting to me."

College of Science and Engineering Dean Sheldon Axler said that professors at only eight other universities in the California State University system have ever received an NSF CAREER award, and none has ever received three in one year. "This extraordinary accomplishment reflects the outstanding quality of our faculty and their devotion to integrating their world-class research with teaching," he said. Over the past five years SF State math and science faculty have received a total of five CAREER grants.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified September 25, 2007 by University Communications