Research News

National awards highlight strength of UB’s early-career investigators

Karthik Dantu talks with a student in the lab.

Karthik Dantu, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is one of 11 UB faculty members who received a 2019 National Science Foundation CAREER Award. Photo: Douglas Levere

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published July 31, 2019

“Through research and education, these early-career faculty members are using their expertise to address societal challenges in fields ranging from health care to materials science to artificial intelligence.”
Venu Govindaraju
vice president for research and economic development

Early-career researchers at UB have received a record 11 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER awards in 2019, along with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the White House.

These honors highlight the strength of the university’s early-career faculty.

“The PECASE and CAREER awards demonstrate the university’s success in recruiting outstanding, highly productive researchers to Western New York,” says Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development. “Through research and education, these early-career faculty members are using their expertise to address societal challenges in fields ranging from health care to materials science to artificial intelligence. The awards recognize the tremendous value of this work, placing these UB researchers among the nation’s leading early-career investigators.”

The CAREER award is one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for early-career scientists and engineers, providing investigators with funding to conduct research and educational outreach.

In 2019, nine researchers in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and two in the College of Arts and Sciences — both chemists — have received a CAREER grant.

These investigators are exploring a variety of topics of societal importance, ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to improve health care, to the development of new catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells and other applications. One engineer is exploring how frozen water can be employed in 3D printing — an advancement that could enable creation of new materials for health care, aerospace engineering, environmental protection and more.

The total number of CAREER Awards, 11 in a single funding cycle, is a record for the university, making UB the leader among SUNY institutions this year.

At UB, faculty members applying for the CAREER Award and other grants receive strong support from the Office of Research Advancement. Staff in this office help with time-consuming tasks, such as editing funding proposals, compiling biographies of project collaborators and collecting other supplemental information, including descriptions of available research facilities. These services are highly valuable to faculty, who are busy and often applying for numerous grants simultaneously.

“Eleven CAREER Awards is an incredible outcome and speaks volumes about our superb faculty,” says Chitra Rajan, associate vice president for research advancement. “It’s exciting to see the CAREER program recognize UB researchers who are working to solve important problems in so many different disciplines. Further, the PECASE award is an incredible achievement, and we are very proud of this year’s recipient at UB: Dr. Blair Johnson, a researcher in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.”

Johnson, an assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences, was honored with fellow 2019 PECASE winners at an event on July 25 in Washington, D.C.

According to the White House, the PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

Johnson’s research explores the effects of water immersion on autonomic activity, ventilatory control and cerebral vascular function. He is also studying the pathophysiology associated with a concussion and developing novel strategies to reduce concussion symptoms and improve recovery time.