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Teri Odom Receives NIH Director's Pioneer Award

September 23, 2008 | by Megan Fellman
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Teri W. Odom, associate professor of chemistry and Dow Chemical Company Research Professor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, has received the 2008 NIH Director's Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Odom, who is one of only 16 awardees and the only one from the Midwest, will receive $2.5 million in direct costs over five years. This will support her work to create metallic nanomaterials to improve the ability to study subcellular structures in three dimensions.

The Pioneer Award, now in its fifth year, recognizes exceptional researchers and thinkers from multiple disciplines who have highly innovative ideas and approaches to contemporary challenges in biomedical and behavioral research.

"Nothing is more important to me than stimulating and sustaining deep innovation, especially for early career investigators and despite challenging budgetary times," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "These highly creative researchers are tackling important scientific challenges with bold ideas and inventive technologies that promise to break through barriers and radically shift our understanding."

Applicants underwent a rigorous nomination and selection process to establish which among them appeared to hold the greatest potential for addressing critical scientific questions that would greatly impact biomedical science and health care. Nominees were expected to demonstrate commitment to accepting considerable risk in addressing critically important scientific questions relevant to the mission of the National Institutes of Health.

Odom's research focuses on controlling materials at the 100-nanometer scale and investigating their size- and shape-dependent properties. Specifically, she has developed nanoscale patterning tools that can generate new types of noble metal (plasmonic) structures that can manipulate light at the nanoscale. In addition, Odom has pioneered a new area called chemical nanofabrication, which combines chemistry and fabrication to assemble functional nanomaterials.

For example, Odom has recently developed an innovative and inexpensive way of making nanomaterials on a large scale, which has resulted in novel forms of advanced materials that show exceptional and unexpected optical properties. The new fabrication technique, known as soft interference lithography, offers many significant advantages over existing methods, including the ability to scale-up the manufacturing process to produce devices in large quantities.

In addition to her research, Odom is active in educational and public outreach. She will deliver a talk, "The Colorful Nanoworld," Nov. 8 as part of the upcoming Chicago Humanities Festival. Odom has developed research-based, hands-on laboratory courses in nanoscale science and technology for Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students. These labs also are being disseminated internationally through printed publications and the Internet.

Odom has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2008 National Fresenius Award from Phi Lambda Upsilon and the American Chemical Society; the Rohm and Haas New Faculty Award; an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship; a DuPont Young Investigator Grant; a National Science Foundation CAREER Award; a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering; a Dow Teacher-Scholar Award; and the ExxonMobil Solid State Chemistry Faculty Fellowship.

Odom received her Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard University in 2001. She then was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow with George M. Whitesides at Harvard before joining the Northwestern faculty in 2002.

Chad A. Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, professor of medicine and professor of materials science and engineering, received the Pioneer Award in 2004, its inaugural year.

More information on the NIH Director's Pioneer Award Program, including the National Institutes of Health press release and awardee information, can be found online.
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