Click on each recipient's name to view his portion of the tribute video.
Medicine - Thomas Westbrook, Ph.D.
Dr. Thomas Westbrook (“Trey”) is an associate professor of molecular and human genetics and of biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Westbrook is an Era of Hope Scholar in Breast Cancer Research and a Scholar of The V Foundation for Cancer Research. Dr. Westbrook received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester School of Medicine for his work on the role of DNA viruses in cancer. He continued his passion for cancer research and genetics during postdoctoral training with Dr. Stephen Elledge at Harvard Medical School. During this time, Dr. Westbrook developed new technologies for genetic screens in mammalian systems that have become widely used in the scientific community to solve problems of human disease.
In 2007, Dr. Westbrook joined the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine where his research team continues to develop new genetic technologies. Dr. Westbrook’s team has pioneered the use of these genetic tools to discover the genes controlling cancer growth and response to treatment. In particular, the Westbrook team focuses on triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive subtype of breast cancer diagnosed in 240,000 women each year. Dr. Westbrook’s team has identified unexpected gene circuits that contribute to TNBC. With creative genetic approaches, his team explores how these cancer genes confer unique vulnerabilities in cancer cells. Dr. Westbrook and colleagues have translated these vulnerabilities into new therapies for breast cancer patients.
Dr. Westbrook’s innovations have been widely recognized and published in journals including Science, Nature, and Cell. For his contributions to science and commitment to cancer research, Dr. Westbrook has received numerous awards including the Nancy Owens Memorial Award for Breast Cancer Research and the Michael E. DeBakey Award for Excellence in Research.
Engineering - Haiyan Wang, Ph.D.
Dr. Haiyan Wang is a full professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University. She is also a joint faculty member in the Materials Science and Engineering Program. Currently she works part-time at the U.S. National Science Foundation as a program manager in the Division of Materials Research. From December 2002 to January 2006, Wang was on the staff of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, first as a director-funded post-doctoral fellow and then as a permanent technical staff member. In 2006, she joined the faculty at Texas A&M University as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor and full professor in 2010 and 2014, respectively. She received a Ph.D. degree in materials science and engineering from North Carolina State University in 2002.
Wang has made significant contributions to a wide range of nanostructured ceramic thin films for various applications, including nitride-based heterogeneous structures for high efficiency diffusion barriers and light emitting diodes, high temperature superconductor coated conductors with significantly enhanced superconducting properties, ferromagnetic and ferroelectric oxide thin films, perovskite oxides for thin film solid oxide fuel cells, in situ TEM work and others. Her unique skill combination of both thin film processing and atomic scale characterization using transmission electron microscopy has enabled her to nanoengineer the thin film structure and exam the defects in nanoscale. She has published more than 300 journal articles in Nature Materials, Nature Communications, Nature’s Scientific Reports, Advanced Materials, Advanced Functional Materials, and Nano Letters, and presented 150 invited and contributed talks at various international conferences. Wang holds eight patents in the areas of thin film processing and architectures. Her work has received a total citation over 6,400 times with an H-index of 39. She has organized eight symposiums at international conferences and is an active committee member in the American Society of Metals (ASM), American Ceramic Society (ACerS), and The Metals, Minerals and Materials Society (TMS).
Dr. Wang is a fellow of the ASM International (Class of 2014). Her major awards include the TEES Senior Fellow 2014, TEES Fellow 2013, ASM Silver Medal Award for Outstanding Mid-Career Materials Scientist in 2011, a College Faculty Fellow Award in 2011, a TEES Young Fellow Award in 2010, an NSF Career Award in 2009, the Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE) in 2008, an Office of Naval Research-Young Investigator Award in 2008, and an Air Force of Scientific Research-Young Investigator Award in 2007. The total project funding she managed over the past five years exceeds $6M from five different federal funding agencies.
Science - Yuh Min Chook, Ph.D.
Dr. Yuh Min Chook is a Professor of Pharmacology, Biophysics and a Eugene McDermott Scholar in Biomedical Research at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) in Dallas. Dr. Chook received an A.B. degree from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University. For postdoctoral training, she studied signal transduction at the University of Toronto/Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto followed by nuclear-cytoplasmic transport at the Rockefeller University, New York. Dr. Chook joined the faculty at UT Southwestern in December 2001.
Dr. Chook’s laboratory uses a combination of structural, biochemical, bioinformatics, and cell biological approaches to study nuclear-cytoplasmic transport by Karyopherin-β nuclear transport receptors. They discovered the first new class of nuclear localization signal in 25 years, which they named the PY-NLS. The Chook lab demonstrated that physical characteristics, rather than sequence motifs alone, describe PY-NLS recognition by the karyopherin. They also designed the first nuclear-import inhibitor and revealed properties that govern karyopherin-PY-NLS affinities. Their discoveries of the PY-NLS and its inhibitor allowed neuroscientists to determine that defective nuclear import resulting from mutations in a PY-NLS can cause a form of familial amyotropic lateral sclerosis disease. The Chook lab has since determined the structural and energetic basis of ALS mutations in a PY-NLS and correlated them to disease severity. Dr. Chook’s laboratory also showed for the first time, through crystallographic and bioinformatics analyses, how the export-karyopherin CRM1 or XPO1 recognizes nuclear export signals. Their discoveries in nuclear export were critical for the design of new CRM1 inhibitors that are currently in clinical trials for a variety of cancers. Dr. Chook’s laboratory has revealed unexpectedly different chemical mechanisms for diverse inhibitors that were originally thought to act similarly, possibly explaining greatly improved tolerance of the new anti-CRM1 drugs. Dr. Chook was awarded a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar award in 2010.
Technology Innovation - Charles Collins, Ph.D.
Dr. Charles Collins is the vice president of Systems R&D at Luminex Corporation, a biotech company based in Austin. Dr. Collins received his Bachelor of Science degree from Trinity University in San Antonio in 1998 and his doctorate in solid state electronics from The University of Texas at Austin in 2002. His doctoral studies focused on research and development of ultraviolet photodetectors in the III-Nitride material system. After graduation, Dr. Collins joined the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to continue his research in the III-Nitride material system, focusing on ultraviolet LEDs, and received three patents for this work. Dr. Collins joined Luminex Corporation in January 2006 and began research on new systems using LEDs and CCD sensors.
Dr. Collins’ research and development group within Luminex combines advanced fluidics, mechanics, electronics, optics, and digital signal processing with proprietary microsphere technology to deliver systems for multiplexed assay testing. These systems enable the development of a wide variety of bioassays, delivering results quickly, cost-effectively and accurately. Dr. Collins led the development of the latest system, MAGPIX, from building early prototypes in the lab, through the formal design process and launched the system into the market in June 2010. Dr. Collins accepted the 2011 Medical Design Excellence Award (MDEA) for MAGPIX, recognizing advances in medical product design and engineering that improve the quality of healthcare delivery and accessibility. In April 2013, Luminex Corporation received U.S. FDA clearance of the MAGPIX instrument, with its multiplexed xTAG Gastrointestinal Pathogen Panel (xTAG GPP).
Dr. Collins has thus far received five patents for his research within Luminex. His current research focus includes development of novel sample-to-answer systems and consumables to fully automate Luminex multiplexed assays. These systems will enable diagnostic testing strait from patient samples, delivering many different pathogen results in a single test. Dr. Collins is also the principle investigator on a Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) contract for development of a prototype instrument that is highly portable, field-deployable diagnostic tool capable of rapid detection of biothreat agents and patient response biomarkers indicative of systemic disease.