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The National Science Foundation awards $5.9 million in CAREER awards to eight young UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members — the largest number of recipients at one time in the university’s history


Chemistry. Physics. Library science. Education. Mathematics. The subject specialties of this year’s eight UNC-Chapel Hill NSF CAREER award winners are vast. The grants have a combined value of more than $5.9 million and represent the most winners in a single year for the university.

“These awards represent the future of UNC,” Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson says. “The projects themselves reflect the scholarly diversity and excellence of our institution. That we have eight NSF CAREER award winners this year is a testament to Carolina’s national leadership in research.”

The 2016 awardees are Eric Brustad, James Cahoon, Leslie Hicks and Alexander Miller, all chemistry professors, Nicholas Law (physics and astronomy), Justin Sawon (mathematics), Robert Capra (information and library science), and Kihyun “Kelly” Ryoo (education).

The CAREER award is the NSF’s most highly esteemed recognition for junior faculty members conducting scientific research. The awards support the early career development activities of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Recipients are selected based on creative career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education in the context of the missions of their institutions.

Under Magnuson’s leadership, the Office of Research Development has made expansion of NSF research funding and projects a goal for the University and has helped support young faculty in their pursuit of awards such as CAREER grants. The office recently created an on-campus learning community to connect prospective awardees with expertise of senior NSF-funded faculty, proposal support and peer mentoring.

“The increased number of CAREER awards this year is a terrific early outcome of our new NSF Learning Community,” said Eliana Perrin, associate vice chancellor for research and director of the Office of Research Development. “In time, we expect to see a vibrant community of NSF scholars who work together, share resources, and celebrate in each other’s successes. It’s always great to secure nearly $6 million in new funding for research in North Carolina, and the contribution to science is priceless.”

Terry Magnuson is UNC-Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for research, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor, and founding chair of the Department of Genetics at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Eric Brustad, James Cahoon, Leslie Hicks, and Alexander Miller are all assistant professors of chemistry within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.

Nicholas Law is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.

Justin Sawon is the J. Burton Linker Fellow and an associate professor of mathematics within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.

Robert Capra is an assistant professor within the UNC School of Information and Library Science.

Kihyun “Kelly” Ryoo is an assistant professor of learning sciences in the UNC School of Education.

Eliana Perrin oversees the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the Office of Research Development as an associate vice chancellor for research. She is also a tenured professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and a nationally known researcher in the area of child health — particularly obesity prevention and treatment.

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