By Mark Dwortzan
Assistant Professor Xue Han (BME) was named by President Obama as one of 102 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the US government on science and engineering researchers in the early stages of their careers. Selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service, awardees receive a research grant lasting up to five years and an invitation to attend a White House ceremony with the President.
In concert with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, 13 federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring U.S. preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions. One of 23 Department of Health and Human Services-sponsored researchers to receive the prestigious award, Han was recognized for her innovative research on developing novel neurotechnologies using light sensitive nanoparticles to sense neurons’ cellular environment and to deliver drugs directly to the brain.
“The PECASE adds another prestigious award to Dr. Han’s already glowing CV, and is a clear indication that her research continues to be recognized at the highest levels,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg (BME), who heads the BME Department. “Her work holds the promise of significant medical breakthroughs in the treatment of neurological diseases.”
“I am thrilled to have been selected to receive this award, which will accelerate our efforts on neurotechnology development to better understand and treat brain disorders,” said Han, who in recent years has garnered several honors for her research, including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award and recognition as a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Sloan Research Fellow and Peter Paul Fellow.
Han develops and applies high-precision genetic, molecular, optical and electrical tools and other nanotechnologies to study neural circuits in the brain. By using these novel neurotechnologies to control and monitor a selected population of brain cells, she and her research team seek to identify connections between neural circuit dynamics and behavioral pathologies. Establishing such connections could improve our understanding of neurological and psychiatric diseases, and lead to new treatments.
Han is one of a select group of Boston University faculty members to receive the PECASE award since its inception in 1996. Other recipients include former Associate Professor Hatice Altug (ECE, MSE, 2010), Associate Professor Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE, 2004) and former Assistant Professors Paul Barber (Biology, 2005) and Joan Walker (Geography & Environment, 2007).