FEST Funding Supports Cutting Edge Junior Faculty Research
Four rising faculty members win seed money for their research.
Posted May 6, 2008, 9:02 AM EST
Photo by Melissa Maki
Four rising faculty members have secured Fund for Excellence in Science and Technology (FEST) Distinguished Young Investigator grants. Phil Arras, Noelle Dwyer, Avik Ghosh, and Jing Yu will each receive $50,000 to support their forward-looking research proposals.
The FEST Distinguished Young Investigator Grant Program is administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies (VPRGS) and supports junior faculty research in the sciences, engineering, and medicine. The program promotes pioneering projects with seed money to enable preliminary data collection that bolsters future, external grant applications.
This year’s FEST application process was highly competitive, with 32 proposals. The review committee judged projects on factors such as originality and the potential of attracting external recognition.
“The extremely high quality and bold approaches of this year’s FEST proposals show clearly that our most junior faculty are willing to tackle some of the most difficult problems facing us in medicine, technology, and cosmology,” says review committee member Dr. Marcia McDuffie, professor of microbiology. “This extraordinary group of scientists appears to be poised to make the University a very exciting place to learn and work for the coming decades.”
Among this year’s winning FEST applications are proposals that may ultimately have significant practical applications such as an improved understanding of how the kidney develops and carbon-based transistors that are faster, cheaper, and more reliable.
“When we established the FEST junior faculty program four years ago, we set out to give institution-wide recognition to our most creative young investigators and to seed more venturesome research projects at the earliest stages of their careers at the University,” says Dr. R. Ariel Gomez, vice president for research and graduate studies. “The program has succeeded far beyond our expectations. FEST winners have quickly capitalized on their awards, typically accelerating highly significant important work, outside funding, and important publications and patents. This year’s four winners, selected from a pool of over 30 proposals, exemplify the FEST tradition. We congratulate Phil Arras, Noelle Dwyer, Avik Ghosh, and Jing Yu—and all of the other applicants as well. In our FEST group we see the University’s emerging leadership in science and engineering.”
The FEST Distinguished Young Investigator Grant Program was initiated by the VPRGS in 2004 and accepts proposals on an annual basis. Past FEST awardees have gone on to great success. Of the 11 past winners still at U.Va., four have received National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards, one has received a Packard Fellowship and the others have secured substantial external funding, including National Institutes of Health Research Project (R01) Grants.
2008-09 Winning FEST Proposals:
- Phil Arras, Astronomy, Faculty Mentor: Zhi-Yun Li
“Physics of Hot Jupiters”
- Noelle Dwyer, Cell Biology, Faculty Mentor: George Bloom
“Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Brain Morphogenesis and Connectivity”
- Avik Ghosh, Electrical and Computing Engineering, Faculty Mentor: John Bean
“Graphene NanoRibbon (GNR) based high-speed electronic devices and circuits”
- Jing Yu, Cell Biology, Faculty Mentor: Doug DeSimone
“Roles of microRNAs in mammalian kidney organogenesis”