Two UA Professors Get Boost with NSF CAREER Awards

From the Winter 2019 Collegian | The nation’s most prestigious recognition of top-performing young scientists was recently awarded to a biologist and a physicist at UA.

The National Science Foundation granted a CAREER Award to Dr. Paulo T. Araujo, UA assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Dr. Kevin M. Kocot, UA assistant professor of biological sciences and curator of invertebrate zoology in the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

With the funding from the awards, Araujo will seek to understand how to control the optical properties of certain polymers and expand their application toward more sustainable technology, while Kocot will use cutting-edge techniques to speed up identification of new species of a group of worm-like mollusks while also training the next generation of scientists studying invertebrates.

The Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty. These faculty have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

At UA, 29 current faculty members have received NSF CAREER Awards in disciplines ranging from nanoscience and engineering to biological sciences.

Araujo’s $600,000 grant will help his lab investigate how a type of polymer, or repeating chains of molecules, interact with light with the goal of tuning polymers to behave as designed.

“Every time you change the properties of the polymer, you are changing the ways it behaves when it interacts with light,” he said. “By the end of the project we hope to have a complete understanding of these interactions and how to manipulate them.”

With his $1.2M grant, Kocot will sample off the coast of Antarctica during two expeditions over the next four years to find new species of aplacophorans and use advanced imaging and DNA sequencing techniques to identify and classify them.Kocot and his students aim to understand the diversity of this group and its evolution.

“If we don’t know what’s down there, we can’t know what we’re losing if there is some sort of environmental disaster,” he said. “We have to continue to explore the world.”

Learn more by reading the full post at UA News.