Smith Continues Stellar Record of NSF Faculty Grant Awards

Associate professor Michael Barresi (left) is one of eight Smith faculty members who have received NSF Career grants since the program for early career faculty began in 1995.

Two Smith faculty members have received National Science Foundation CAREER grants, premier awards for early-career faculty in the sciences.

The Smith honorees are David Gorin—assistant professor of chemistry, who received a CAREER award for a project on developing chemical reagents—and Will Williams, assistant professor of physics, who received an award for a project that uses lasers to make precise measurements of the energy levels in isotopes of beryllium atoms.

The awards, announced earlier this year, continue Smith’s stellar showing in the CAREER grants program, one of the most prestigious in the nation.

Eight Smith faculty members have received CAREER awards since the NSF established the grants program in 1995.

Numerous Smith alumnae have also been selected for CAREER awards.

Each year, more than 2,500 faculty members nationwide apply for CAREER awards, with fewer than 20 percent chosen to receive grants. The awards program is designed to support early-career faculty who are most likely to become academic leaders and who are working on projects that combine research and teaching.

Patricia DiBartolo ’89, the Caroline L. Wall ’27 Professor of Psychology and faculty director of the sciences at Smith, said Smith’s showing in the CAREER program is a key accomplishment for an undergraduate liberal arts college, given that the grant awards are not categorized by the enrollment size of the institution or whether recipients collaborate with undergraduate or graduate students on research.

Smith’s strong record “reflects and helps advance the value we place on research and pedagogies that integrate students as collaborators in cutting-edge faculty scholarship,” she added.

Alumnae success in the awards program also “attests to the ways in which student access to such collaborations, and to high-quality science education, can set them on a trajectory for success in STEM,” DiBartolo said.

In addition to Gorin and Willams, the following current Smith faculty have received NSF CAREER awards:

Michael Barresi, associate professor of biological sciences, in 2011 for a project on “The role of glial cells during commissure formation in the zebrafish forebrain.” Barresi’s work provided a molecular, cellular and behavioral understanding of how neuron-glial interactions occur in the live developing brain. He also created a collaborative outreach program with a biotech company for students in an underserved public high school.

Susan Voss, professor of engineering, in 2007 for a project to advance her research on middle-ear mechanics and develop a medical diagnostic tool that could revolutionize the care of critically ill neurology patients. The NSF grant award also supported Voss’ efforts to create more opportunities to mentor engineering students.

Kate Queeney, professor of chemistry, in 2004, for a project investigating the role of polysaccharides in biofilm formation. Queeney used surface sensitive in situ techniques such as infrared and Raman spectroscopy to probe molecular-level interactions governing the adsorption behavior of polysaccharides. Her education plan provided learning and mentoring opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM.

Laura Katz, Elsie Damon Simonds Professor of Biological Sciences, in 2001 for a project exploring evolutionary relationships among ciliate protozoa in the class Phylliopharyngea. Katz’ project also involved teaching principles of biology using an evolutionary framework, while encouraging students to develop broadly applicable skills in writing and oral presentation.