Gordon A. & Mary Cain Department of Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Kevin McPeak was recently honored by the National Science Foundation with the most prestigious award for young faculty in science and engineering. As recipient of the NSF Faculty Early (CAREER) Development Award, McPeak will receive $500,000 over the next five years to develop his research program.
NSF’s CAREER program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars. Recipients of the award are expected to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization, through activities that build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.
“The first goal of this project is to advance the understanding of chiral light-matter interactions,” said McPeak.
The study of these chiral light-matter interactions can provide a non-invasive method for characterizing the structure of biomolecules. McPeak explained this will enable devices that can rapidly identify diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and ultimately advance the search for cures.
“The funds will allow me to commit one graduate student full time to this project for five years,” said McPeak. “Furthermore, the funds will enable my lab to build a one-of-a-kind characterization tool for measuring the unique optical properties of chiral materials.”
McPeak also intends to engage third grade and high school students in science and engineering research through videos and mini-courses related to polarized light. Beyond these efforts, this project will directly benefit graduate and undergraduate researchers through mentoring; and more broadly, K-12 students with interests in polarized light-matter interactions.
“The CAREER Award is extra special because it acknowledges both the quality of the proposed scientific work and the STEM related activities that my lab will pursue to support the science,” said McPeak. “Having the NSF acknowledge the combined excellence of both activities is a great honor to me personally.”
Read the official NSF release at https://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=191436&org=NSF&from=news.
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Laura J. Odenwald, assistant manager of digital marketing, LSU College of Engineering.