Tew receives $515,000 CAREER award from NSF

By Patrick J. Callahan

Gregory Tew, assistant professor of Polymer Science and Engineering, has received a five-year, $515,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development program. The CAREER program supports early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century, according to the NSF.

The grant supports Tew’s work on synthetic polymers that imitate the shape and assembly properties of real proteins. He will focus on creating non-natural polymers that fold and assemble on command into desired shapes. Outcomes of this research will impact many areas including medicine and advanced materials. Work in this interdisciplinary area requires the use of state of the art instrumentation available on the
campus.

Tew’s research has both fundamental and practical implications. From a basic science point of view, these studies will provide insight into the processes used by natural biomolecules to fold and do their job. At the same time, research outcomes from this work could create new approaches to therapeutic applications, including the inhibition of protein-protein interactions, novel catalysts, which allow easier access to important chemicals, or advanced porous materials for membranes in fuel cells.

Tew says his work also supports the wider campus community with a mentoring program for a variety of groups involved with the physical sciences. “We are building a mentoring program that coordinates undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellowships, and professional scientists,” Tew says. “The interdisciplinary nature of the work will train students in important scientific areas including organic and macromolecular synthesis, supramolecular organic chemistry, and biophysics. As a result, they will be trained with skills needed to compete in the global biotechnology field.”

In addition to receiving this latest grant, Tew is the recipient of the Office of Naval Research award; the Army Research Office Young Investigator program award, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.