Pomona College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jane Liu is a recipient of the 2016 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award from The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. The award provides an unrestricted research grant of $60,000 to faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions who are accomplished researchers and committed educators.
Professor Liu was nominated by Pomona’s Chemistry Department for “her creative and productive research program, her record of securing major external research funding, her recognized excellence and innovation in the classroom and teaching laboratory, her unwavering support of underrepresented students and for her intellectual leadership in facilitating curricular conversations in a thoughtful and productive manner,” said Daniel O’Leary, Carnegie professor of chemistry and department chair.
The award will fund Liu’s ongoing research in the area of ribonucleic acids. In the Liu Research Lab, Liu and her undergraduate researchers study how non-coding RNAs contribute to the persistence of the bacterial pathogen Vibrio cholerae, the bacteria that causes cholera. They also aim to apply their knowledge of non-canonical RNAs and molecular evolution to develop RNA-based sensors for the detection of organic molecules.
“This award recognizes my past efforts and will support future endeavors to increase research experiences for undergraduate students, in general,” said Liu, who added that it will provide funding for research supplies and help cover fees for students to attend national scientific meetings to present their work.
Liu has been working on developing research-based experiences in the chemistry curriculum. A couple of years ago, she started doing a peptide-synthesis lab in Organic Chemistry II, in which students design and make peptides that are then tested for antimicrobial activity. Liu is planning on using the award to develop new laboratory experiences in other areas of her curriculum.
Liu says she is thankful to the department – and O’Leary in particular – for the nomination: “Their support throughout the past few years means a lot.”
“Research support at undergraduate institutions is very important," states Dr. Mark J. Cardillo, executive director of The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. "Nearly half the chemists who earn a doctorate degree receive their bachelor's degree from an undergraduate institution, and research is a fundamental part of chemistry education."
Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars nominations are submitted by undergraduate institutions from throughout the U.S. Liu is one of seven recipients for 2016.
The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation is a leading non-profit organization devoted to the advancement of the chemical sciences. It was established in 1946 by chemist, inventor and businessman Camille Dreyfus, who directed that the foundation's purpose be "to advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances around the world."