U.Va. Biomedical Engineer Receives Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering

October 23, 2009 — Kevin Janes, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, is among 16 promising scientific researchers from around the United States named as recipients of 2009 Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering. Each will each receive an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years.

Janes plans to use the funds to sasupport students, postdoctoral fellows and research activities in his lab.

The Packard Fellowship was awarded in support of Janes' promise as a biomedical researcher, and is not tied to a specific project. His research focuses on understanding how signaling networks function within cells, which has important implications for diseases such as cancer, where the molecular "signal processing" has malfunctioned and cellular responses are inappropriate.

Established in 1988, the Packard Fellowship Program arose out of Hewlett-Packard Company co-founder David Packard's commitment to strengthening university-based science and engineering programs. By supporting unusually creative researchers early in their careers, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation hopes to develop scientific leaders, further the work of promising young engineers and scientists, and support efforts to attract talented graduate students into university research in the United States.

In Janes' fellowship application, he outlined his lab's focus at the interface between engineering and basic sciences. His lab uses engineering approaches, including large data sets and computer modeling, to understand the function of complex biological signaling networks.

"Engineers thrive in complexity, but it is naïve to think that the existing engineering tools will be sufficient to understand cellular behavior," Janes wrote. "What are needed are new tools designed with an engineering mindset that is systems-oriented, quantitative and pragmatic. The development and application of such tools is my research group's overarching focus."

This most recent award adds to a growing list of prominent accolades and research grants for Janes. Last month, he received a 2009 National Institutes of Health "New Innovator Award," which will provide more than $1.5 million over the next five years in support of his research. Janes was also named a 2009 Pew Scholar, which will provide $240,000 in support of his research over the next four years.

Over the past 21 years, the Packard Fellowship Program has awarded 440 fellowships, totaling $274 million, to faculty members at 52 top national universities. It is among the nation's largest nongovernmental programs designed to seek out and reward the pursuit of scientific discovery with "no strings attached" support. The Packard Fellowship Program funds research in a broad range of disciplines that includes physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science and all branches of engineering.

"Each year the Packard Foundation is honored to support a cadre of innovative young scientists and engineers who are attacking some of the most important research questions of our time," said Lynn Orr, Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor at Stanford University and chairman of the Packard Fellowship Advisory Panel. "Their research, and the talented students who will work in their research groups, will continue to have a profound impact on the science and engineering community for years to come."

The 2009 fellows were nominated by presidents of 50 universities that participate in the Packard Fellowship program. The 99 nominations were reviewed by the Fellowship Advisory Panel, a group of nationally recognized scientists, which then recommended 16 fellows for approval by the Packard Foundation Board of Trustees.

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