TAMEST names top rising STEM scientists of Texas in 2020 O’Donnell Award announcement

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Changing the future of Alzheimer’s Disease. Utilizing crystals to produce drugs for kidney stones and malaria. Understanding previously unobserved functions of our universe. And pioneering the evolution of wound care….
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Changing the future of Alzheimer’s Disease. Utilizing crystals to produce drugs for kidney stones and malaria. Understanding previously unobserved functions of our universe. And pioneering the evolution of wound care.

These are the discoveries by Texas’ rising stars in research being honored with the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards by TAMEST:

  • Medicine: Susan “Bess” Frost, Ph.D., UT Health San Antonio
  • Engineering: Jeffrey Rimer, Ph.D., The University of Houston
  • Science: Alessandra Corsi, Ph.D., Texas Tech University
  • Technology Innovation: Kristine Kieswetter, Ph.D. and Deepak M. Kilpadi, Ph.D., KCI

“The TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards highlight the groundbreaking research taking place in Texas,” said TAMEST Board President Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H .”The discoveries by these researchers are advancing science and improving lives. TAMEST is proud to celebrate these researchers for their achievements.”

The recipients will be honored during the O’Donnell Awards dinner and reception on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, at the TAMEST 2020 Conference–Innovating Texas: Research to Commercialization.

The conference takes place January 7-9, 2020, at the Fairmont Dallas Hotel in downtown Dallas.

Learn more about the recipients:

Medicine:

Susan “Bess” Frost, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at UT Health San Antonio, is the recipient of the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Medicine from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) for her work changing the way we look at Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Frost is also a faculty investigator with the university’s Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Instead of focusing on how to cure the disease, as is the focus of most Alzheimer’s research, Dr. Frost’s team looked at what causes the disease–a buildup of tau proteins inside of cells and amyloid plaques outside of it, which disrupts and eventually kills brain cell function. In doing so, her team was able to identify targets that can mitigate the spread of toxic proteins in the brain.

“By the time someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, negative tau protein has been building up in their brain for decades. However, Dr. Frost’s novel approach seeks to intervene at the earliest stages of the disease and prevent memory loss and other cognitive functions before they occur,” said William L. Henrich, M.D., President and Professor of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “Dr. Frost is an exceptional leader with an endless inquisitive mind. What she has accomplished thus far has enlightened the field and will continue to do so.”

Engineering:

Jeffrey Rimer, Ph.D., Abraham E. Dukler Professor of Chemical Engineering, the University of Houston is the recipient of the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) for his seminal breakthroughs using crystals to help treat malaria and kidney stones.

His approach of utilizing non-classical pathways of crystallization has led to great strides in the design of new materials, which can be translated into commercial practices.

These include the synthesis of zeolites for catalysis applications and the rational design of crystals in biological and pathological diseases (i.e., kidney stones and malaria).

Focusing on crystal growth also enables Dr. Rimer to fixate on how complex mechanisms are formed, which can be used to improve the catalysis in the petrochemical process.

“What he has developed has enabled us to look at processes that nobody understood before,” said Christine Ehlig-Economides, Ph.D., William C. Miller Endowed Chair of Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston. “Most people think of crystals as something you can hold in your hand, but Dr. Rimer’s crystals are so tiny we can’t even see them with the naked eye. He has managed to create special molecular visualization techniques that enable visualization of both chemical and biomolecular processes and it is changing the field.”

Science:

Alessandra Corsi, Ph.D., associate professor at Texas Tech University, is the recipient of the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) for her paradigm-shifting research on the merger of stars and black holes.

Dr. Corsi uncovered a “multisensory” exploration process of our universe, where gravitational waves tell part of the story and light then completes it. Utilizing data from both gravitational waves and light now allows scientists to create a comprehensive picture of the cosmic collision that occurs between neutron stars from hundreds of millions of light years away. This allows us to study previously unexplored phenomena of our universe.

“Dr. Corsi understood, well before others, that to gain an understanding of the star merger process and its products, and to identify precursors properly, the clarifying signal may be present in the radio afterglow,” said Fazle Hussain, Ph.D., President’s Distinguished Chair in Engineering and Science at Texas Tech University. “Because of Dr. Corsi’s groundbreaking research, we now have developed a unique tool for examining space.”

Technology Innovation:

Kristine Kieswetter, Ph.D. and Deepak M. Kilpadi, Ph.D., KCI, are the recipients of the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) for their contributions to better wound therapy.

Drs. Kieswetter and Kilpadi have both been the driving force behind the evolution of the use of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), which has set the standard for advanced wound care. NPWT, put simply, is the application of a vacuum, via a dressing, to a wounded surface.

Their leadership has helped V.A.C.® Therapy amass more published clinical evidence than any other NPWT product on the market. Today, KCI’s V.A.C.® Therapy has been selected as the treatment of choice for more than 10 million wounds worldwide.

“The passion Deepak and Kris have is really driven by seeing the profound effect V.A.C.® Therapy has on patients by restoring their lives,” said Dr. John Harper, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, KCI. “This is not just wound care, it positively effects people’s livelihoods, social activity, self-esteem and so much more.”

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About the O’Donnell Awards:

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards annually recognize rising Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

Over $1 million has been awarded to more than 50 recipients in the categories of medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation since the inception of the O’Donnell awards in 2006. 11 O’Donnell Recipients have gone on to be elected to the National Academies. Read more about the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards recipients.

About TAMEST:

TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) is the state’s premier scientific organization, bringing together Texas’ best and brightest scientists and researchers. With more than 300 members, TAMEST is composed of the Texas-based members of the three National Academies (National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Sciences), the Royal Society and the state’s 11 Nobel Laureates.

Media Contact
Liz Holliday
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