Lisa Olshansky, the Charles W. and Genevieve M. Walton Scholar and Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has been chosen as a 2020 Searle Scholar.
Professor Olshansky is one of 15 recipients of a prestigious Searle scholarship that includes multi-year grant funding to support research.
"Being selected as a Searle Scholar is a ridiculous honor," Olshansky said. "Beyond the money, which is awesome, and the recognition, which is also awesome, I think what means the most to me is the validation. To think that this panel of crazy-smart and famous scientists sat around and discussed my ideas and came to the conclusion that I actually have the potential to advance science and biomedical research is an amazing feeling."
The Searle Scholars Program was founded in 1980. It is administered by the Kinship Foundation, a private operating foundation established to advance the institutional philanthropy of the Searle Family in three areas: environmental conservation, education and biomedical research. And the foundation's Searle Scholars Program is a national biomedical research grant program with a scientific advisory board that is primarily interested in the potential of applicants to make innovative and high-impact contributions to research over an extended period of time.
Olshansky said the boost in confidence from being named a Searle Scholar inspires a you-can-do-anything feeling.
"It pushes me to keep reaching and to just go for it, believing in the potential impacts and success of my ideas as much as they do," Olshansky said.
Research in the Olshansky lab centers on mimicking the ways biological systems use conformational changes to control metal ion reactivity. The lab is working to synthesize ligands and prepare artificial metalloproteins in which conformational changes are triggered to produce distinct changes in function at the metal ions within. The focus is understanding and exploiting this interplay.
Beyond inquiries into basic science questions, the Olshansky lab is focusing on the development of biomimetic systems for solar energy conversion, biocompatible agents for analyte sensing in vivo, and the development of catalysts in which cooperativity between proton transfer, electron transfer, and conformational changes result in efficiencies not yet possible by other avenues. The researchers hypothesize that mechanical motion represents an efficient means with which to interconvert different forms of energy, and their research aims to test this hypothesis, and then capitalize on the results.