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April 15, 2015

NSF Career awards recognize three junior faculty members

The National Science Foundation has granted its most prestigious award in support of junior faculty, the Faculty Early Career Development Program, to three Rochester researchers: Antonio Badolato, Danielle Benoit, and Michael Neidig.

The award is given to promising scientists early in their careers and recognizes “outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research.” The award also comes with a federal grant toward their research and education activities.

Antonio Badolato
Antonio Badolato

Badolato, assistant professor of physics, won the award for his proposal to harness the quantum nature of light in semiconductor nanostructures. The goal of the project is to confine light in nanophotonic structures that mimic genetic evolution and then produce, from a tiny chip, a type of light that is very different from the light generated by the sun or by a laser, for example.

Badolato says the research can transform how light and electronics are integrated on a chip. “Advances in this field have the potential to lead to computing and communication devices with superior performances and with transformative applications in defense, energy, and manufacturing,” says Badolato. He adds that the project also has strong implications at a fundamental level; a better understanding of the nature of light is tied to modern physics and measurement theory.

Danielle Benoit
Danielle Benoit

Benoit, the James P. Wilmot Distinguished Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is being recognized for her work in regenerative medicine and drug delivery applications. Benoit also has appointments in chemical engineering and the Center for Musculoskeletal Research.

“We are developing a completely novel and potent site-directed therapy to treat bone diseases, with a focus on osteoporosis,” says Benoit. “It’s an honor to have the National Science Foundation recognize and support our efforts.”

The award from the NSF, which comes with a $500,000 grant over five years will support Benoit’s research to significantly advance therapeutic strategies for osteoporosis, and, if successful, the approaches developed will be readily adaptable to treat other bone diseases. Benoit will also dedicate a part of the award to develop educational outreach programs to excite children in grade school and high school about STEM careers.

Much of Benoit’s research involves regenerative strategies, including tissue engineering and drug delivery approaches, for musculoskeletal applications with a focus on bone.

Michael Neidig
Michael Neidig

Neidig, an assistant professor of chemistry, conducts research that involves a detailed understanding of the reactions in which carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken and other molecules replace the hydrogen atoms. One objective of Neidig’s work is to develop materials that can more efficiently synthesize pharmaceuticals.

Neidig points out that despite early successes in the field, a molecular understanding of the electronic structure, bonding, and reactivity remain largely undefined.

“This is a big-picture distinction,” says Neidig. “It’s inspiring to have our research valued by experts in the scientific community.”

Neidig will use part of the grant money to develop educational outreach programs in the Rochester community, including lab experiences for high school students and a short course for the Upward Bound program at the University designed to inspire underrepresented students to pursue careers in STEM.

Award application

If you are a faculty member interested in applying for an NSF Career award, the Arts, Science & Engineering Dean’s Office is holding a workshop on April 20. For more information, visit

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