Arizona Technology and Innovation: Bisgrove Scholars

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Science Foundation Arizona recently announced the 2015 class of Bisgrove Scholars, five exceptional early career scientists and engineers from around the world whose work is pioneering the next generation of scientific research and policy. Each winning scholar receives $200,000 for research. Mary O’Reilly, scientific program officer for Science Foundation Arizona, and Bisgrove Scholars Dr. Heather Emady and Dr. Candace Lewis, will talk about the awards.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation is a look at the future. Science foundation Arizona recently announced the 2015 class of Bisgrove scholars, a group of pioneering early career scientists and engineers from around the world. Joining us now is Mary O'Reilly, scientific program officer for science foundation Arizona. And we're also joined by two Bisgrove scholars, Dr. Heather Emady and Dr. Candace Lewis. Did I get that right? Okay. All right. Good to have you both and congratulations to both of you by the way and congratulations to -- describe the Bisgrove scholar program.

MARY O'REILLY: It is a competition, science foundation runs every year since 2011. And basically what we do is we select five to seven post doctoral or early tenured track assistant professors to fund for two years. They are exceptional young researchers, early in their careers --

TED SIMONS: You are looking for the best and brightest, not only to get them here and do some work here, and keep them here, too.

MARY O'REILLY: That would be our hope. What we would like, if they don't stay in Arizona, and we really hope they do, but they come ambassadors to Arizona and the work we do here.

TED SIMONS: Heather, you focused on powder and particulate science and uniformity therein.

HEATHER EMADY: As a chemical engineer, I was trained to design chemical processes and products that were mainly focused on liquids and gases. Particles we didn't learn about. They're largely ignored, and now I know the reason for that. It's because they're so difficult to describe. And there is not one single equation to describe all of them.

TED SIMONS: And so what you're basically doing, and what you are talking about is basic materials for what, minerals and other things?

HEATHER EMADY: So, there is so many different applications of particle technology in pharmaceuticals. We have particles coming together -- into tablets and capsules. In foods, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar and all are chemically the same thing, all sugar, but they're in all different forms with different properties, and I'm trying to explain why they have these different properties.

TED SIMONS: As properties as they're produced and the more you know, the easier it is in a variety of ways, I would imagine, to produce things.

HEATHER EMADY: Yes, and the more efficient your processes become. Any process that has particles at any point in the process is a lot less efficient than those that don't contain particles.

TED SIMONS: Interesting. Candace, neurobiology and behavior. Is that what we're talking about?

CANDACE LEWIS: I want to clarify. I am not quite a doctor yet. Dissertation Friday morning, so a couple of days from now.

TED SIMONS: Close enough for us.

CANDACE LEWIS: I will do a joint appointment with ASU and -- we will investigate the relationship between early life stress, genetic regulation, and behavioral outcomes that are known risk factors for psychiatric disorders.

TED SIMONS: How experience plays into the neurobiology that plays into the behavior?

CANDACE LEWIS: Exactly. So, psychiatric disorders are exceedingly complex. We now know that the development of these disorders involves both environmental factors and genetic factors in the new field of neuroEPIgenetics, a framework to work with.

TED SIMONS: An example, a child is exposed to something and we see how that impacts the brain and how that impacts behavior.

CANDACE LEWIS: Yeah you got that exactly. Early life stress -- we had children that are exposed to traumatic experiences throughout their childhood and we know this is a major risk factor. And we have known this for a long time. We haven't understood the mechanism.

TED SIMONS: You get $2,000 for research --

CANDACE LEWIS: $200,000.

TED SIMONS: $2,000, where am I -- that's fantastic.

CANDACE LEWIS: Can't do much with $2,000.

TED SIMONS: No. $200,000 -- that has to be awfully helpful.

HEATHER EMADY: It is, especially as a new faculty member. I have been at ASU for only six months and this is my first funding and it is extremely challenging to get funding as a new faculty member so this will help jump start my career.

TED SIMOSN: Research stays a the ASU?

HEATHER EMADY: Yes

TED SIMONS: Research at --

CANDACE LEWIS: T-GEN and ASU.

TED SIMONS: This is the idea to get the universities involved, to get these folks here and keep them here working.

MARY O'REILLY: That is the whole -- the whole reason behind this is for science foundation, science foundation's board, all of us really, and I think all of us collectively in this room want Arizona to be a real strong innovation hub. We want to bring more high technology to the valley, diversify the economy. To be able to support all of that, we need to have a strong infrastructure, research infrastructure and innovation infrastructure. We are doing our part to meet that goal by supporting the Bisgrove scholars.

TED SIMONS: It sounds like a promising future. Congratulations to both you of and congratulations to the Bisgrove scholar program. We await next year's winners as well.

MARY O'REILLY: Out in July.

TED SIMONS: Thank you very much.

MARY O'REILLY: Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear about new research that shows a link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. And we'll speak with the authors of a book that measures the value of water beyond its monetary worth. That's on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Mary O'Reilly: Scientific Program Officer for Science Foundation Arizona,Dr. Heather Emady: Bisgrove Scholar, Dr. Candace Lewis: Bisgrove Scholar.

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