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Rice's West honored as one of Texas' best researchers

HOUSTON, Jan. 10, 2008 -- Rice University bioengineer Jennifer West is being recognized today with one of the Lone Star State's highest scientific honors, the O'Donnell Award from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

The O'Donnell Awards, given for excellence in medical, scientific and engineering research, include a $25,000 honorarium, a citation and an inscribed statue. West, a pioneer in the field of biomaterials engineering, will receive the O'Donnell Award for engineering today at the academy's annual conference in Houston. She is being honored "for advancing the fields of tissue engineering and bionanotechnology leading to life- saving medical products, for cutting-edge research in basic cell and molecular bioengineering, for leadership in bioengineering education and for excellence in teaching and mentoring."

West is the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering and director of Rice's Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering.

"Jennifer West is simply one of the most extraordinary young academics in America, and both Rice and Texas are fortunate to have her here," said Rice President David Leebron. "She excels in contributing to every aspect of our mission: research, teaching and service. Her contributions to scientific knowledge are poised to produce important benefits to humanity. TAMEST could not have chosen a more worthy recipient for the ODonnell Award."

West joined Rice in 1996. Her research in two of bioengineerings most competitive fields -- nanotechnology and tissue engineering -- has earned honors that include recognition as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in 2006, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation's 2004 Annunzio Award, Nanotechnology Now's "Best Discovery of 2003" and recognition in Technology Review magazine's 100 Top Young Innovators list.

Wests research focuses on the synthesis, development and application of novel biomaterials and includes groundbreaking work on a revolutionary cancer therapy based on metallic nanoshells. Her group is currently creating new materials for small-diameter vascular grafts that could eliminate the need for doctors to use veins from a patients leg for heart-bypass surgery. In addition, her team is partnering with researchers from Baylor College of Medicine to regenerate damaged brain cells and blood vessels for the treatment of stroke.

TAMEST provides broad recognition for Texas' leading researchers in medicine, engineering and science, and it helps build a strong identity for Texas as a center of achievement in each of those fields. Academy members include all Texas Nobel laureates as well as the 200-plus Texas members of the National Academies, which include the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

Named for Dallas philanthropists Edith and Peter O'Donnell, the O'Donnell Awards were established to recognize outstanding Texas up-and-comers and their work.

The 2008 O'Donnell Award ceremonies conclude with a dinner this evening in honor of West and fellow award-winners Beth Levine (for medicine) from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Edward Marcotte (for science) from The University of Texas at Austin and Sameer Pendharkar (for technology innovation) from Texas Instruments.

In April 2006, West received a four-year, $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to develop a model educational program that infuses undergraduate teaching with cutting-edge research. Using the grant, she has developed a summer academy for high school students, a new seminar-style course to introduce college freshmen to the interdisciplinary elements of bionanotechnology, a biology course designed for upper-level college students in engineering and the physical sciences, and a summer internship program for both Rice and non-Rice engineering and physics students who want to participate in bionanotechnology research.


Contact: Jade Boyd
Rice University

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