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Kinzer-Ursem wins NSF CAREER Award

Tamara Kinzer-Ursem, an assistant professor in Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, has received an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, one of the most prestigious NSF honors for outstanding young researchers in science and engineering.
For the educational component of the NSF CAREER award, Tamara Kinzer-Ursem (second from left), an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will develop a new educational pathway to prepare Weldon School students for careers in biotechnology and biomedical engineering. 

The CAREER Program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Activities pursued by early-career faculty are expected to build a foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

The research component of Kinzer-Ursem’s five-year project seeks to identify key factors that regulate the strengths of synaptic connections in the brain. Protein networks control synaptic strength, and when disrupted, give rise to learning and memory disorders. Kinzer-Ursem will use a combined computational-experimental approach to study these factors. Computational models are used to study how these protein networks are formed and how they function in space and time. Model predictions are tested by experimental techniques that range from standard enzyme assays to cutting-edge super-resolution microscopy imaging of sub-cellular protein networks. Together these studies could lead to new treatments for learning and memory disorders.

A significant educational component of the grant will impact students at every level, from K-12 to graduate students. Learning modules will be developed to teach fundamental principles of transport to K-12 students. A new educational pathway incorporating new courses, research opportunities, and entrepreneurial activities will prepare both undergraduate and graduate students for careers in the fields of biotechnology and biomedical engineering.