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Heather Pinkett Honored by Pew Charitable Trusts

Scientist recognized for research advancing human health

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June 18, 2010

Heather Pinkett
Heather Pinkett

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Heather W. Pinkett, assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, was recently named a 2010 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Pew Scholars, each receiving $240,000 over four years, are selected for demonstrated excellence and innovation in research relevant to the advancement of human health. The program enables early-career scientists to take calculated risks, expand their research and explore unanticipated leads.

Pinkett is one of only 21 Pew Scholars named this year nationwide.

Pinkett, who came to Northwestern in 2008, studies the structure and function of membrane proteins, which are located within a cell membrane and act as pumps to actively transport metabolites and compounds. The specific transporters she studies are medically relevant as they are responsible for the development of multi-drug resistance and have been implicated in diseases such as cystic fibrosis, macular degeneration due to Stargardt's disease and non-tension glaucoma. Her lab uses a combination of structural biology, biochemistry and molecular genetics to determine how these transporter proteins relate to their selective function.

In its history, the Pew program has invested more than $125 million to fund close to 500 scientists. Pinkett joins a community of researchers that includes three Nobel Prize winners, three MacArthur Fellows and two recipients of the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award.

"Twenty-five years ago, The Pew Charitable Trusts identified a tremendous opportunity to impact the world of science by supporting the most promising young investigators and encouraging them to pursue their best ideas without restrictions," said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and chief executive officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts. "Motivating scientists at this point in their careers is essential to advancing discovery and innovation."

The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent nonprofit, is the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew.