Two College of Science faculty have been selected as 2018 recipients of the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, a prestigious honor intended to help kick-start the careers of promising junior faculty members.

Dr. Michael Nippe, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. Anne J. Shiu, assistant professor of mathematics, are the first investigators to receive the coveted accolade to date this year within the college, which saw five of its researchers recognized in 2017, according to Texas A&M Science administrators and NSF online awards database records.

Nippe's proposal, titled "Exploiting Novel Architectures for Advanced Heterometallic Magnetic Molecules and Materials" and funded at a projected total amount of $390,000 over the next five years through the Division of Chemistry's Chemical Structure, Dynamic and Mechanism B Program, will develop new classes of heterometallic transition metal-rare earth complexes with interesting magnetic properties, not to mention tremendous potential for next-generation data storage and future spintronic devices.

Shiu's proposal, titled "Biochemical Reaction Systems: from Structure to Dynamics," has been funded through the Division of Mathematical Sciences's Mathematical Biology Program at $482,340 over the next five years. Her work will use the mathematics of networks to understand how living cells maintain a healthy balance of nutrients, such as iron. Shiu's research will use mathematical techniques, including algebraic geometry and dynamical systems, to find the simplest components in a reaction network that allow a cell to exhibit observed behaviors. She plans to test her results using laboratory observations of yeast cells -- specifically, how they manage and transport iron -- from Texas A&M chemist Dr. Paul Lindahl's lab.

The goal of Nippe's research is to exploit various interactions between paramagnetic metal ions to develop new classes of single-molecule magnets (SMMs) that will feature improved performance, higher operating temperatures and switchable magnetization dynamics. His interdisciplinary project will combine state-of-the-art techniques from inorganic, synthetic, computational and physical chemistry to identify important fundamental design guidelines for novel SMM systems.

Nippe says that his project is well suited to holistically educate future scientists at all levels through new class modules he plans to create, as well as through a variety of high school outreach activities that will be geared toward underrepresented students in the sciences.

With regard to Shiu's research, she explains that scientists think of the many chemical reactions taking place at any given moment within healthy cells as forming a network similar to a wiring diagram, with connecting wires describing the movement of nutrients and metabolites through a cell's chemical reactions. While knowing the entire wiring diagram is not necessary for understanding the fate of individual nutrients, the many interconnected circuits make it difficult to isolate only the part of the diagram important for certain activities, such as maintaining iron levels.

Likewise, the dynamics observed in living systems amount to much more than the sum of their parts. Systems biology, therefore, seeks to understand how biological components come together to generate emergent, systems-level behavior. A current bottleneck in systems biology is the lack of mathematical theory relating system structure to emergent behavior. Shiu's project seeks to develop a theory of reaction systems tailored to biological networks in hopes of answering important biological questions pertaining to how cells process information and how iron levels are maintained within cells. Ideally, her research will generate results well-suited to analyzing a large class of networks arising in living systems.

Nippe, who joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty in 2014, earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2011 and completed his postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to coming to Texas A&M. His research, funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Welch Foundation, focuses on inorganic molecular approaches to contribute to the development of novel systems for solar to energy conversion, small molecule activation, and molecules for information storage. In 2012, Nippe was recognized with an American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry Young Investigator Award.

Shiu joined the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics faculty in 2014 as an assistant professor. She received her Ph.D. in mathematics with an emphasis in genomic and computational biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 and completed NSF postdoctoral fellowships at Duke University (2010-2011) and the University of Chicago (2011-2014) prior to coming to Texas A&M. Shiu's research, supported by the NSF and the Simons Foundation, is focused on mathematical biology and algebraic geometry. Since 2015, she has served as a co-principal investigator for the NSF grant supporting one of Texas A&M Mathematics' three Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs.

Click here to learn more about the NSF and the CAREER program.

Visit the Texas A&M Division of Research website to see lists of current and past NSF CAREER Award recipients across the university.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Michael Nippe

  • Dr. Anne J. Shiu

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