Faculty of Science & Engineering hands out research awards

The work of three researchers from the Faculty of Science & Engineering (FSE) was honoured during the FSE Honours & Awards night on Nov. 18.

The evening saw the presentation of the faculty’s inaugural internal research awards to chemistry Professor Dasantila Golemi-Kotra, recipient of the 2010 Early Researcher Award; biology Professor Chun Peng, recipient of the 2010 Established Researcher Award; and physics Professor Anatharaman Kumarakrishnan (Kumar), the recipient of the 2010 Graduate Mentoring Award.

Above: From left, Janusz Kozinski, dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering; physics Professor Anatharaman Kumarakrishnan, biology Professor Chun Peng; and chemistry Professor Dasantila Golemi-Kotra

“These awards were created in 2010 to honour and celebrate the outstanding dedication of our faculty to research and graduate student mentoring. This year’s recipients are examples of the excellent talent we have at FSE and we are proud to support our researchers in their fundamental, groundbreaking and innovative research endeavours,” said Janusz Kozinski, dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering.

Since 2004, Golemi-Kotra has studied the mechanisms of bacterial resistance. Over the course of her research, she has secured significant funding to create a reputable team of researchers. She has established herself as a rising star in the field of biological chemistry. Her research focuses on an emerging and persistent problem of bacterial resistance.

Right: Dasantila Golemi-Kotra

Specifically, Golemi-Kotra’s research focuses on the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, a leading cause of hospital- and community-acquired infections. Extensive use of antibiotics has invariably been followed by the development and spread of resistance in this organism.

Her research aims to elucidate genes involved with the bacteria’s response to antibiotics that specifically target cell wall biosynthesis. Essential to the survival of the bacterium, the cell wall is the organism’s first line of defense against antimicrobial agents. As a result, the cell wall remains an important target in drug development. Golemi-Kotra’s research seeks to identify new factors involved in antibiotic resistance, which will ultimately lead to the design of new antimicrobial agents.

A world expert in the area of ovarian cancer and the molecular basis of complications in pregnancy, biology Professor Chun Peng is the recipient of the 2010 Established Researcher Award. With an impressive track record of awards and publications, a strong research program and team, Peng has made a significant contribution to the understanding of reproductive biology and the role of hormones in human health.

Right: Chun Peng

She discovered new proteins and their role in the molecular mechanism of receptor signaling that have led to the discoveries of mis-regulation during placental pathologies. These studies are critical in understanding placental development and are important landmarks in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of hormonal control in reproduction.

Significantly, her research team has identified a novel mechanism by which chemo-resistance, a major problem in cancer therapy, is developed. Currently, as a result of those discoveries, novel serum markers may be used to predict preeclampsia, a major disorder of human pregnancy and a leading cause of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. Peng’s studies focus on ovarian cancer as well as diseases that result from complications of pregnancy. Her research has the potential to not only advance current knowledge but may also lead to potential diagnostic tools and treatment for complications arising from pregnancy.

Kumarakrishnan (Kumar), a professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, is this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Graduate Mentorship award. A large number of both graduate students have successfully completed their research under his mentorship and moved onto becoming valuable members of the scientific community.

Right: Anatharaman Kumarakrishnan (second from the left) with his team of graduate student researchers

Kumar’s  research utilizes the wave nature of cold atoms and the coherent transient response of a collection of laser-cooled atoms to carry out tabletop studies of light matter interactions and precision measurements in atomic physics. The goals of these efforts are to achieve a better understanding of the theoretical foundations of atomic physics as well as to develop cutting-edge techniques and instruments for industrial applications in photonics and optics.

For more information, visit the Faculty of Science & Engineering website.