Tew receives presidential science award

By Patrick J. Callahan

Gregory N. Tew, assistant professor of Polymer Science and Engineering, has been awarded a five-year, $500,000 grant under the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) program run by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Tew was nominated for the award by the Department of Defense Army Research Office Young Investigators program. The award was given May 4 at a White House ceremony.

Tew, the first UMass faculty member to earn the Presidential Award, was one of 57 scholars recognized in the latest round of grants. The Presidential Awards were created by President Bill Clinton in 1996 as the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government in support of the extraordinary achievements of young professionals at the outset of their careers.

Chancellor John V. Lombardi welcomed news of Tew''s award. "His work in supermolecular polymer science is clearly among the major achievements in this field and reflects not only his own remarkable abilities, but also the strong support of his colleagues, department, and college," he said. "We celebrate Professor Tew''s achievements and look forward to his continued success."

Tew said he will use the funding to study supermolecular polymer science. This is a field where scientists create large molecules called polymers that contain specific interactions used to assemble these molecules into new structures unattainable by conventional scientific methods. For example, Tew said it''s possible to use polymers to make membranes that filter out specific elements and neutralize them at the same time. Another use would be to create polymers that are self-healing, meaning that after they are cracked or broken, they would have the ability to undo much of the damage.

"It is a great honor to receive this presidential award," Tew said. "I would like to thank my advisors and mentors for their inspiration and guidance as well as my own current graduate and postdoctoral students for their efforts. This award is the result of hard work and dedication from a lot of people. It will enable us to study the directed self-assembly of metal-containing polymers leading to multi-functional materials. The research brings together important principles from chemistry, biology, physics, and materials science to generate novel polymers for the next generation of materials."

In other work, Tew''s research has led to unique principles for designing new therapeutic antimicrobial agents. A major effort of his research group is learning how to program molecules with the necessary information to self-order into complex, hierarchical functional materials. This includes the creation of molecules that reveal the structure and function of proteins. Work also involves novel hydrogels for application in drug delivery and tissue regeneration.

Tew earned his B.S. in chemistry from North Carolina State University in 1995 and his doctorate in materials chemistry from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 2000. Before joining the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering in 2001, he spent one year as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School biochemistry and biophysics department.