NIH Director’s Awards for Seven Penn Faculty
The 2018 NIH Director’s Awards were recently announced, and seven Penn researchers were among the 89 recipients. These grants provide funding to extraordinarily creative scientists proposing highly innovative research to address major challenges in biomedical science. The grants are part of the NIH High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which supports ideas with potential for great impact in biomedical research from across the broad scope of the NIH. The Penn awardees are:
New Innovator Awards
Rajan Jain, assistant professor of medicine, professor of cell and developmental biology and a member of the Cardiovascular Institute and Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Penn Medicine, will receive $2.4 million to advance understanding of how cell identity is established and maintained. The goal of his group is to decode the rules that instruct genome organization and cellular identity, ultimately revealing implications for human disease.
Matthew Kayser, assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Penn Medicine, will receive $2.4 million for research focusing on the function and regulation of sleep during early periods of brain development. His work has shown that specific circuits control sleep early in life and that disrupting sleep during critical developmental periods can lead to neural-circuit malformation and abnormal behaviors in adulthood.
Michael Mitchell, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in Penn Engineering’s department of bioengineering, will receive $2.4 million to further his lab’s work employing tools and concepts from cellular engineering, biomaterials science and drug delivery to understand and therapeutically target complex biological barriers in the body. His lab applies its research findings and the drug-delivery technologies developed to a range of human-health applications, including cancer metastasis, immunotherapy and gene editing.
Transformative Research Award
Nicola J. Mason, associate professor of medicine and pathobiology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Aimee S. Payne, the Albert M. Kligman Associate Professor of Dermatology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, received the Transformative Research Award. As co-investigators, they will be sharing $727,277 for the first year of a five-year grant for their project, evaluating a genetically engineered cell-based therapy approach to treat pet dogs with a naturally occurring autoimmune skin disease known as pemphigus. Dogs are one of the few other species to develop pemphigus naturally, and the condition mirrors pemphigus in human patients. Evaluation of this approach may ultimately lead to breakthrough therapies for humans. Dr. Mason and Dr. Payne will continue to focus on their novel gene-engineered chimeric autoantibody receptor T cell (CAART) immunotherapy and its potential to cause lasting remission of antibody-mediated disease.
Early Independence Awards
Mark A. Sellmyer, assistant professor of radiology in the Perelman School of Medicine, will receive $393,349 for the first year of a five-year Early Independence Award for his work on developing small molecule tools and converting molecular-imaging technologies into clinical use in order to address problems in such areas as cancer biology, immunology and infectious disease. Most recently, he developed new positron emission tomography probes to detect bacterial infections in patients.
Anna Wexler, a fellow in advanced biomedical ethics in the department of medical ethics and health policy at Penn Medicine, will receive $402,499 in the first year of a five-year grant for her Early Independence Award to examine the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging neurotechnology, such as do-it-yourself and direct-to-consumer electrical brain stimulation. She also explores how do-it-yourself movements, direct-to-consumer health products and citizen-science initiatives are disrupting traditional models of medicine and science.
SEAS Team: Naval Research Grant
The University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Stanford University, has received a five-year, $7.5 million grant ($2.566 million for Penn) from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under the Total Platform Cyber Protection (TPCP) program for software complexity reduction, or simplifying complex internet protocols to build greater security. The project, led by Carnegie Mellon, will create fundamentally new ways to provide greater security and resilience for legacy Navy software.
The joint project, Accountable Protocol Customization (APC), aims to reduce the complexity of legacy software by identifying lean protocol subsets that are sufficient to meet the functional and security needs of relevant clients and servers while preserving backward compatibility.
The Penn team consists of faculty members in the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s department of computer and information science (CIS): Professor Boon Thau Loo; Henry Salvatori Professor Benjamin Pierce; Professor Andre Scedrov; and Professor Steve Zdancewic. Dr. Scedrov is also professor and chair of the department of mathematics in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences.
“Modern network protocol standards often contain a dizzying array of options with perplexing and unpredictable potential interactions. Over time, these pieces of software become hard to maintain and also easy to compromise,” said Dr. Loo. “We plan to explore real-world software that can benefit from APC’s protocol subsetting techniques, leveraging our combined strengths in systems and formal methods. The real-world use cases are immense, ranging from cloud applications, network infrastructure and the Internet of Things.”
“The benefit is in the high assurance,” said Anupam Datta of CMU, who is the overall lead investigator for the project. “It’s very hard to give high assurance to a very large, complex system. The goal of this project is to identify smaller subsets of the system to see if those parts operate correctly, we can still get security guarantees irrespective of what happens in other parts of the system.”
“The project will create a scientific framework for accountable protocol customization that reliably improves security of contemporary and future networked computing environments,” said John Mitchell of Stanford. “Through this project, we aim to create principled techniques for synthesis, testing and verification of protocols. We look forward to fruitful collaborations with all participating institutions.”
Report of the Ad Hoc Consultative Committee for the Selection of a Dean of the School of Dental Medicine
The Ad Hoc Consultative Committee for the Selection of a Dean of the School of Dental Medicine (SDM) was convened by President Amy Gutmann on September 26, 2017. During its four months of work, the full Committee met on nine occasions and reported its recommendations to the President and the Provost on February 1, 2018. The Committee members were:
Chair: Antonia Villarruel, Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing
Faculty: Hydar Ali, Professor of Pathology and Director of Faculty Advancement and Diversity, SDM
Faizan Alawi, Associate Professor of Pathology; Director, Penn Oral Pathology Services; and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, SDM
Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia, Professor of Biochemistry, SDM
Eve Higginbotham, Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity, PSOM
Kelly Jordan-Scuitto, Chair and Professor of Pathology (SDM) and Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Director of Biomedical Graduate Studies (PSOM)
Bekir Karabucak, Chair and Associate Professor of Endodontics, SDM
Eric Stoopler, Associate Professor of Oral Medicine and Director, Oral Medicine Residency Program, SDM
Students: Sehe Han, D’18
Bret Lesavoy, D’19
Alumni: William Cheung, Chair of the Board of Overseers
Martin Levin, Member of the Board of Overseers
Ex Officio: Joann Mitchell, Senior Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer
The search was supported by Adam P. Michaels, Deputy Chief of Staff in the President’s Office, and Dr. Warren Ross of the executive search firm Korn Ferry.
The Committee and its consultants conducted informational interviews and consultative meetings with individuals and groups throughout the Penn and Penn Dental Medicine communities, as well as many informal contacts, in order to better understand the scope, expectations and challenges of the Dean’s position and the opportunities facing the University in the years ahead. These consultative activities included full Committee meetings with Dean Denis Kinane and Interim Dean Designate Dana Graves and members of the Penn Dental Medicine leadership team, including the associate deans. In addition, the Chair and the Committee members held open meetings for various Penn Dental Medicine constituencies. The consultants interviewed administrators from the central administration and from Penn Dental Medicine and sought nominations from academics and practitioners across the nation and the world as well as from leaders in government, foundations, academic societies and other organizations. Finally, members of the Committee engaged in extensive networking with Penn faculty and students, as well as colleagues at other institutions. The Committee also solicited advice and nominations from Penn Dental Medicine faculty, staff and students as well as Penn Deans and faculty and staff from across the campus via email and reviewed a variety of documents about the school.
Based upon these conversations and materials, the Committee’s charge from the President and the Provost, and the Committee’s own discussions, a comprehensive document was prepared outlining the scope of the position and the challenges a new Dean will face, as well as the qualities sought in a new Dean. The vacancy was announced (and input invited from the entire Penn community) in Almanac.
Over the course of its four-month search process, the Committee and its consultants contacted and considered more than 230 individuals for the position. From this group, the committee evaluated an initial pool of 43 nominees and applicants and ultimately selected 10 individuals for semi-finalist interviews with the entire Committee. Based on voluntary self-identifications and other sources, we believe the initial pool of 43 contained eight women and 35 men, and five people of color. The five individuals recommended for consideration to the President included two women and were selected from this group of 10 semi-finalists.
On March 29, 2018, President Gutmann and Provost Pritchett announced the selection of Dr. Mark Wolff as the Morton Amsterdam Dean of Penn Dental Medicine. Dr. Wolff is a celebrated teacher, globally engaged scholar and deeply experienced clinician who served as professor and chair of cariology and comprehensive care in the College of Dentistry at New York University. He assumed his office on July 1, 2018, after ratification by the Trustees at their June meeting.
—Antonia M. Villarruel, Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing; Chair, Consultative Committee on the Selection of a Dean of the School of Dental Medicine
Nominations for University-Wide Teaching Awards: December 7
Nominations for Penn’s University-wide teaching awards are now being accepted by the Office of the Provost. Any member of the University community—past or present—may nominate a teacher for these awards. There are three awards:
• The Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching honors eight members of the standing faculty—four in the non-health schools (Annenberg, Design, SEAS, GSE, Law, SAS, SP2, Wharton) and four in the health schools (Dental Medicine, PSOM, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine).
• The Provost’s Award for Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring honors two faculty members for their teaching and mentoring of PhD students. Standing and associated faculty in any school offering the PhD are eligible for the award.
• The Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence by Non-Standing Faculty honors two members of the associated faculty or academic support staff who teach at Penn, one in the non-health schools and one in the health schools.
Nomination forms are available at the Teaching Awards website, https://provost.upenn.edu/education/teaching-at-penn/teaching-awards The deadline for nominations is Friday, December 7, 2018. Full nominations with complete dossiers prepared by the nominees’ department chairs are due Friday, February 1, 2019.
Note: For the Lindback and Non-Standing Faculty awards, the health schools—Dental Medicine, Nursing, PSOM and Veterinary Medicine—have a separate nomination and selection process. Contact the relevant Dean’s Office to nominate a faculty member from one of those schools.
There will be a reception honoring all the award winners in the spring. For information, please email email@example.com or call (215) 898-7225.
Criteria and Guidelines
1. The Lindback and Provost’s Awards are given in recognition of distinguished teaching. “Distinguished teaching” is teaching that is intellectually demanding, unusually coherent and permanent in its effect. The distinguished teacher has the capability of changing the way in which students view the subject they are studying. The distinguished teacher provides the basis for students to look with critical and informed perception at the fundamentals of a discipline, and s/he relates that discipline to other disciplines and to the worldview of the student. The distinguished teacher is accessible to students and open to new ideas, but also expresses his/her own views with articulate and informed understanding of an academic field. The distinguished teacher is fair, free from prejudice and single-minded in the pursuit of truth.
2. Skillful direction of dissertation students, effective supervision of student researchers, ability to organize a large course of many sections, skill in leading seminars, special talent with large classes, ability to handle discussions or structure lectures—these are all attributes of distinguished teaching, although it is unlikely that anyone will excel in all of them. At the same time, distinguished teaching means different things in different fields. While the distinguished teacher should be versatile, as much at home in large groups as in small, in beginning classes as in advanced, s/he may have skills of special importance in his/her area of specialization. The primary criteria for the Provost’s Award for Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring are a record of successful doctoral student mentoring and placement, success in collaborating on doctoral committees and graduate groups and distinguished research.
3. Since distinguished teaching is recognized and recorded in different ways, evaluation must also take several forms. It is not enough to look solely at letters of recommendation from students or to consider “objective” evaluations of particular classes in tabulated form. A faculty member’s influence extends beyond the classroom and individual classes. Nor is it enough to look only at a candidate’s most recent semester or opinions expressed immediately after a course is over; the influence of the best teachers lasts, while that of others may be great at first but lessen over time. It is not enough merely to gauge student adulation, for its basis is superficial; but neither should such feelings be discounted as unworthy of investigation. Rather, all of these factors and more should enter into the identification and assessment of distinguished teaching.
4. The Lindback and Provost’s Awards have a symbolic importance that transcends the recognition of individual merit. They should be used to advance effective teaching by serving as reminders to the University community of the expectations for the quality of its mission.
5. Distinguished teaching occurs in all parts of the University. Therefore, faculty members from all schools are eligible for consideration. An excellent teacher who does not receive an award in a given year may be re-nominated in some future year and receive the award then.
6. The Lindback and Provost’s Awards may recognize faculty members with many years of distinguished service or many years of service remaining. The teaching activities for which the awards are granted must be components of the degree programs of the University of Pennsylvania.