Three Texas Tech Professors Receive NSF CAREER Grants

Three Texas Tech University professors have been awarded CAREER Grants from the National Science Foundation. Ranadip Pal, Shiren Wang and Luis Grave de Peralta are receiving about $1.2 million to further their research in various areas. An assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Pal received $404,000 to advance his research that focuses on genomic signal processing and control of genetic regulatory networks. Pal’s theory addresses cancer treatment with a consideration of a patient's individual genetic makeup, or their genetic regulatory network, instead of treatment which is often in the form of a one-size-fits-all approach. “These drugs target only the cancerous cells, and they do not damage the healthy cells,” Pal said. “In chemotherapy, there are numerous side effects including hair loss and general nausea that are related to destruction of healthy cells. We want to understand each patient’s genetic makeup so that we can administer the drugs that will work the best for them and their form of cancer.” Wang is an assistant professor of industrial engineering. His $400,000 award recognizes his career development which focuses on organic thermoelectric composites. Recovering heat from a material or device through thermoelectric conversion involves the conversion of thermal energy to electrical energy or electrical energy to thermal energy. The heat generated from the sun’s rays on the roof of an electric vehicle can be used to charge that same car’s battery. In computers, the heat from the processor could be recycled to recharge the battery as the computer is in operation. Wang is working to find new organic materials that could revolutionize the thermoelectric conversion industry. “Organic materials hold promise for these applications because they are lightweight, abundant, easy to process and environmentally benign,” Wang said. Grave de Peralta, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, received his nearly $397,000 CAREER award to study plasmonics. Grave de Peralta said plasmonics is a new field of science in which researchers hope to fabricate ultra-compact nano-size optical circuits needed for future integration of electronics and photonics in nanoscale-sized machines. “This means a lot for me,” Grave de Peralta said.  “First, it allows me to have a stable source of resources for five years. The prestigious nature of the award will help me to obtain other sources of financing for my research in nanotechnology. In the long run, this award will be fundamental for me in establishing in the physics department a new, solid and independent research group.” Bob Smith, Texas Tech’s provost, said Career Awards, especially from the NSF, are extremely competitive and prestigious.   “Such awards also have the potential to affect an individual’s career in an extremely positive way,” Smith said. “We know that the success of these three will also reflect very favorably on Texas Tech.” The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu. CONTACT: Leslie Cranford, senior editor, Office of Communications & Marketing, (806) 742-2136 or leslie.cranford@ttu.edu.