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Clemson biophysicist Pu-Chun Ke has received a $400,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award and other international recognition for his research into the self-assembly of carbon nanomaterials in living systems and how they impact human health and the environment.
In his research, Ke discovered that certain mammalian colon cancer cells contract when cell membranes interact with nanoparticles. This experiment offered a first-hand look at how nanomaterials interact with cell membranes and may trigger toxicity. His research also looks at how nanoparticles coated with different matter react in different aquatic solutions and in the food chain.
Nanoscience is the study of how materials behave when their dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale: 100,000th the size of a single human hair.
"With the mass production of nanomaterials in research labs and on the consumer market it has become imperative to understand the potential impact of these materials after they are incorporated into biological systems or discharged into the environment," said Ke, who is a professor in the department of physics and astronomy. "A major effort in our lab is to decipher the behaviors of nanomaterials in living systems and relate the biophysical studies to practical issues, such as gene- and drug-delivery and toxicity."
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Ke and his research interests also were featured recently on the flagship page of Nature.com. The Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter named a review paper, "Carbon Nanomaterials in Biological Systems," that he wrote with collaborator Rui Qiao, a professor of mechanical engineering, one of its top papers of 2007. According to the journal, the selection includes the papers and review articles that are considered the very best contributions from 2007 — those with the highest importance and that receive the highest number of downloads.
"These are great and much deserved honors for Pu-Chun Ke," said associate vice president for research and economic development John Ballato. "Given the accelerating pace of scientific advancements in today's technology-driven world, it's always a fight to stay at the cutting edge of the state of the art. This international recognition clearly points to the caliber of Dr. Ke's research and further validates Clemson's strength in advanced materials."
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