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Amaral Named Distinguished Young Scholar

August 1, 2006 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Luis Amaral, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University, has been named a Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research by the W.M. Keck Foundation. He is one of five recipients of the award nationally and will receive up to $1 million over five years.

The award, made to Northwestern University to support Amaral's work, will support his research using computational methods to identify and map patterns in the growing “sea” of complex biological information. These maps hold promise for guiding drug designs that can cure diseases while avoiding unwanted side effects. His research has the potential to greatly decrease the amount of time and money spent in drug development.

Amaral, a physicist with expertise in computer-based modeling, is a member of the executive committee of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems. His research covers numerous areas within the field of complex systems, with a recent focus on the characterization of complex biological networks. In the past, Amaral studied problems as diverse as the extraction of medical information from physiologic signals, the growth dynamics of economic and social organizations, the statistics of the price fluctuations of financial assets and the trophic organization of natural ecosystems.

Before joining Northwestern in 2002, Amaral was a visiting scholar and then a research associate at Boston University and Harvard Medical School.

Initially established in 1998 as a five-year, $25 million initiative, the Keck Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program was designed to support groundbreaking research addressing the fundamental mechanisms of human disease. The W.M. Keck Foundation Board renewed the program for an additional five years in 2003,

bringing the total amount to be awarded up to $50 million by 2008. It is hoped that the investment in the Keck Scholars will greatly benefit society for generations to come with continued advances in understanding -- and combating -- the fundamental mechanisms of human disease.

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