The Welch Foundation today awarded its prestigious Hackerman Award to Rice University scientist Jason Hafner '96, who was named this year's "rising star" for his innovative chemical research. Hafner's discoveries include a new type of nanostructure called gold nanostars, which are proving useful for sensing, imaging and medicine, and the first method for measuring large electrical fields inside cell membranes.
"I've always known I wanted to be a scientist; nothing gets me more excited than figuring out how things work," said Hafner, an assistant professor in chemistry and in physics and astronomy. "To be recognized for doing what I love especially with an award named after Norman Hackerman, a man who gave so much to science is a very special honor."
Hafner will be presented the award and an accompanying prize of $100,000 at a luncheon today.
"Dr. Hafner is known for approaching questions from unusual angles," said Ernest H. Cockrell, chair of The Welch Foundation. "His creative thinking, careful experiments and willingness to tap into research tools from a variety of disciplines have led to breakthroughs in several areas and epitomize the type of scientist this award was created to recognize."
Hafner began developing his interest in applying nanomaterials and nanoscale tools to study biological systems while he was a graduate student studying with Rice Nobel laureate Richard Smalley.
Half physicist and half chemist, Hafner studies how to modify the surface chemistry of metal nanoparticles to affect how they grow and how they interact with living cells. This is important because the resulting size and shape of the nanoparticles determine their optical properties. In this process, he created gold nanostars, a complex new structure whose many elongated points absorb and scatter light at varying wavelengths. Hafner has mapped the optical properties of the stars and how they may be used for imaging (by scattering light
|Contact: David Ruth|