By Rich Barlow, BU Today
From faster-working electronics to a more energy-efficient electric grid: we might summon part of the future if only we could figure out how to mass-produce carbon nanotubes, tiny cylinders of carbon atoms that in some cases can conduct electricity 1,000 times faster than copper. If Ramesh Jasti can crack this nano-nut—he’s trying—the world could benefit while BU would reap the intellectual property rights.
That potential for inventing future license-able technology has earned Jasti, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of chemistry and materials science & engineering, one of two appointments this year as an Innovation Career Development Professor. The second went to Ahmad (Mo) Khalil, a College of Engineering assistant professor of biomedical engineering, for his work in synthetic biology.
“I will use the financial support to pursue some very new ideas that we are developing in the lab,” says Jasti. “This research will lay the foundation for the next generation of intellectual property and licensing opportunities.”
Khalil says his research seeks to understand “the complex molecular networks” powering cellular behaviors. One example: “how microbes respond and adapt to new environments and stress. We are actively translating this research to provide new insight into antibiotic resistance and into new technologies for rapidly diagnosing and treating infectious diseases.”
The Innovation Career Development Professorship, he says, will help pay for efforts to “translate some of our early technologies aimed at curbing the spread of multi-drug-resistant bacteria,” as well as for developing genetic therapies.
“These Innovation Career Development Professorships celebrate just what is possible when some of the brightest minds across so many diverse fields come together,” says Jean Morrison, University provost. “Professors Jasti and Khalil are bridging disciplines and truly taking their research to the next level, developing technology that is at once novel and translational. Both will be making an impact for many years to come, and we are excited to support their success.”
Jasti, who joined BU’s faculty in 2008, earned a doctorate at the University of California at Irvine. The Innovation Professorship is the latest in a string of honors he has received this year, including a research fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a 2013 BU Ignition Award, given to help researchers translate their discoveries into products and services.
Khalil received a PhD from MIT. He joined the BU faculty last year, after three years working at the University as a postdoctoral fellow. Earlier this year, he was given ENG’s Award for Teaching Excellence as well as an Institut Merieux Research Grant Award. Last winter, BU asked Khalil to make a video plea against the federal budget cuts known as sequestration, focusing on the hit to his work. The Association of American Universities posted the video and others in its unsuccessful effort to thwart the cuts.
Innovation Career Development Professorships are funded by the Office of Technology Development via licensing fees paid by firms for BU-developed intellectual property. The professorships, created in 2008, recognize assistant professors whose research the University expects will produce future licensed technology. The provost selects the professors, who receive three-year appointments and annual research accounts, while their BU schools receive money to partially offset their salaries.