As a newly-appointed Vallee Scholar, professor Lisa Olshansky will receive $340,000 to further research over the next four years, testing the hypothesis that conformational control represents an efficient way to interconvert different forms of energy.
The Vallee Scholar program recently appointed six new Vallee Scholars, including Olshansky, in its continuing mission to provide unrestricted funding for national and international early career researchers at a critical stage in their tenure-track careers. The Vallee Foundation was established by Bert and Kuggie Vallee as their legacy to the advancement of medical science and medical education.
"Receiving this award is an incredible honor," Olshansky said. "Bert Vallee is considered to be one of the founding fathers of bioinorganic chemistry, the field that inspires my research. It's an incredible feeling to be carrying on his legacy and testing hypotheses that he first put forward over 50 years ago."
In announcing the scholars, Vallee program officials said they are delighted to welcome these outstanding scientists to the Vallee community. This year's candidates were particularly well qualified, they added, but these six stood out.
Olshansky's lab will focus on converting pH changes, light, and binding events into chemical potential energy. Through the construction of switchable artificial metalloproteins, Olshansky is working to dissect the kinetic and thermodynamic consequences of conformational control and hopes to create an array of switchable systems and catalysts that can be applied to solve challenges in biomedicine.
Projects in the Olshansky lab range from developing new materials for solar to fuels conversion, to engineering biological analyte-responsive MRI contrast agents.
Olshansky was named earlier this year a Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors Scholar, awarded to early career faculty based on scholarly productivity and contributions to the educational mission of their departments and the College of LAS.
Olshansky joined the Illinois chemistry faculty in 2018. She began her studies at San Diego City College before transferring to UC San Diego and graduating with highest honors in 2009 with a B.S. in Chemistry. She went on to MIT as an NSF and Presidential graduate research fellow, earning a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry in 2015.
The Vallee Scholar Awards Program recognizes outstanding early career scientists at a critical juncture in their careers. Each Scholar receives $340,000 in discretionary funds to be spent over four years for basic biomedical research. Candidates are competitively selected based on the originality and innovation of their science, the quality of their proposal as evidenced by ideas and execution, and their record of accomplishment. Since 2013, 41 junior faculty have been appointed Vallee Scholars for an investment total of almost $12 million. The Vallee Foundation stimulates development of interdisciplinary sciences related to human health by promoting interaction between productive scientists worldwide.