May 8, 2008
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Maryland Science Center Recognizes Young Scientists with
OYE, OYS Awards
For the first time, two women scientists will be awarded the Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) and Outstanding Young Engineer (OYE) honors by the Maryland Science Center, announced maryland Science Center President and CEO Van Reiner. Sharon Gerecht, Ph.D, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Johns Hopkins university will be recognized with the OYE award, and Andrea Meredith, Ph.D, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine will receive OYS recognition. They will receive the awards at a may 15, 2008 ceremony.
The OYS and OYE awards recognize the extraordinary scientific contributions of Maryland residents under the age of 35. The OYS award, originally presented by the Maryland Academy of Sciences (the precursor to, and legal name of the Maryland Science Center) was reinstated in 2006 as part of the 30th anniversary of the Maryland Science Center. The OYE award was reinstated in 2007.
"The OYE and OYS awards are critical in recognizing the achievements of exemplary young scientists and their contributions to the field of science," said Reiner. "Recognizing their accomplishments is valuable in the Maryland Science Center's mission to inspire young people and stimulate their interest in science."
Professors Gerecht and Meredith were selected for their awards by members of the maryland Science Center's Scientific Council, a 50-member advisory group which provides expertise and content review to the institution. As recipients of the awards, both will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and the Allan C. Davis Medal.
Professor Gerecht's research focuses on engineering stem cells for specific therapeutic applications. The differentiation and function of stem cells are greatly influenced by their microenvironment. Professor gerecht exploits modern micro engineering techniques to alter these microenvironments to engineer stem cells that can be used to perform specific functions or tasks. Nineteen articles have resulted from Professor Gerecht's thesis work; she has also written four book chapters, and has filed for three patents.
"Professor Gerecht is an extraordinarily productive and creative researcher who is setting the pace for bioengineering stem cell systems," wrote Kathleen Stebe, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, in her nomination of Gerecht. "Given her combination of expertise and creative vision, Prof. Gerecht is uniquely positioned to make headway in this field."
Professor Meredith focuses on the research of ion channel physiology. Her ultimate goals are to fully understand the contribution of individual ion channels to information encoded at the cellular, circuit, and systems levels. She uses a variety of multi-disciplinary techniques, ranging from molecular biology and electrophysiology to whole animal studies, in her pursuit to understand how the brain imparts time to downstream systems on behaviors. Professor Meredith has authored 13 peer-reviewed papers.
"[Professor Meredith's] goal is to follow the science to the critical questions in a field without being technique limited," noted Meredith Bond, chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Building on her strengths, Dr. Meredith's laboratory combines [an array of] approaches in order to identify the critical ion channels that encode circadian time in the brain."
Past recipients of he OYS award include winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics William D. Phillips, and Jeremy Berg, currently the head of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences at the National Institute of Health. The 2007 OYS and OYE recipients were Dr. Joshua Mendell and Dr. David Gracias, respectively, both of The Johns Hopkins University.
About the Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor is visited by more than 500,000 people each year. Popular exhibits include: Dinosaur Mysteries with more than a dozen full-size dinosaurs and interactive paleontology activities; an exploration of the day in the life of the human body in Your Body: The Inside Story; and dozens of interactive experiments in Newton's Alley. Other popular attractions in the museum include the Kids Room, the five-story St. John Properties IMAX Theater, and the world-famous Davis Planetarium.