TAMEST 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards

2023 O'Donnell Awards Recipients
Understanding the microbiome’s effect on cancer treatment. Building multi-hazard resilience models to protect infrastructure from extreme weather-related events. Identifying new treatment paths for parasitic worms devastating the developing world. Mapping and understanding the architecture of the human genome and its potential for curing disease. Innovating new seismic survey technology for the oil and gas industry that leaves less of an environmental impact and increases efficiency.

These are the discoveries by Texas’ rising stars in research being honored with the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards by TAMEST (Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science & Technology):

  • Medicine: Jennifer Wargo, M.D., The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Engineering: Jamie Padgett, Ph.D., Rice University
  • Biological Sciences: James J. Collins III, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Physical Sciences: Erez Lieberman Aiden, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
  • Technology Innovation: Chengbo Li, Ph.D., ConocoPhillips

“The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards aim to identify rising stars in Texas research to support their careers moving forward, and there is no question that this year’s recipients are incredible researchers who epitomize the Texas can-do spirit,” said Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Committee Chair Ann Beal Salamone (NAE), Chairman of the Board at Rochal Industries. “Our elite group of past O’Donnell recipients have a spectacular track record of going on to National Academy election and benefiting from the mentorship and awareness these awards bring to the groundbreaking research happening in our state. These recipients fit into the same mold, and we can’t wait to see where their discoveries lead and hope to welcome them as TAMEST members in the years to come.”

Over $1.5 million has been awarded to more than 70 recipients in the categories of medicine, engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences and technology innovation since the inception of the O’Donnell Awards in 2006. Fifteen O’Donnell Awards Recipients have gone on to be elected to the National Academies, including three who hold dual academy elections.

The 2023 recipients will be honored at the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. CT and will give presentations on their research preceding the award ceremony at the TAMEST 2023 Annual Conference, Forward Texas – Accelerating Change, at The InterContinental – Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

All are encouraged to attend the ceremony and the TAMEST Conference.

Learn more about the 2023 O’Donnell Awards recipients:

Medicine

“From the clinic to the lab, Dr. Wargo has dedicated her life to cancer patients and to figuring out how treatment with immunotherapy and other forms of cancer therapy can improve outcomes. She’s developed her own insightful research program and has led groundbreaking work to give us new insights into the importance of gut and other microbes in modulating immunity and immunotherapy response. The therapeutic implications Dr. Wargo’s research has for the future of cancer treatments is incredibly promising, with applications for a wide range of cancers.”

James P. Allison, Ph.D. (Nobel Laureate, NAM, NAS), Regental Professor and Chair of Immunology, and Director of the James P. Allison Institute at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Jennifer Wargo, M.D.

World-renowned physician scientist Jennifer Wargo, M.D., professor of Surgical Oncology and Genomic Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is the recipient of the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Medicine from TAMEST. She was chosen for her seminal contributions to the understanding of how the microbiome influences responses to immunotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment.

Throughout her career, Dr. Wargo has advanced important research that contributed to the understanding of how best to combine targeted therapy with immunotherapy for cancer, which paved the way for several novel combination treatment approaches. In her research to better understand why all patients don’t respond equally well to immunotherapy, she discovered the important connection between treatment outcomes and a patient’s gut microbiome.

Learn more about Dr. Wargo and her research >

Engineering

“Dr. Padgett is exceptionally talented and has always been at the forefront of not just looking at the built environment as it relates to natural hazards but also looks at how our social systems and behaviors interact and are impacted as well. Dr. Padgett gets that you can’t look at everything in silos, especially when it comes to infrastructure systems. You must look at the interdependencies and come up with a multi-hazard approach, which makes the work much more complex.”

Reginald DesRoches, Ph.D. (NAE), President and Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Rice University

Jamie Padgett, Ph.D.

Leading structural engineer Jamie Padgett, Ph.D., Stanley C. Moore Professor, Rice University, is the recipient of the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering from TAMEST. She was chosen for her life-saving research in infrastructure sustainability and resiliency in hazard-prone regions.

Dr. Padgett’s research enhances public safety and provides new methods for multi-hazard resilience modeling. Instead of looking at a single threat, like how a bridge will perform in an earthquake, her research looks at multiple hazards or multiple threats that a system might be exposed to over time.

Learn more about Dr. Padgett and her research >

Biological Sciences

“The only current treatment for schistosomes targets the worms themselves, not the eggs that can survive 30 years in the body, creating a debilitating cycle in patients even with treatment. Dr. Collins is a bold visionary who has not only identified new therapeutic avenues against these parasites by focusing instead on the eggs and reproduction but he has uncovered new paradigms in cell signaling and developmental biology as well. He and his team have laid the groundwork toward something that will eventually break the cycle of egg laying and provide a better outlook for the disease.”

David J. Mangelsdorf, Ph.D. (NAS), Alfred G. Gilman Distinguished Chair of Pharmacology, UT Southwestern Medical Center

James J. Collins III, Ph.D.

James J. Collins III, Ph.D., Associate Professor, UT Southwestern Medical Center, is the recipient of the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Biological Sciences from TAMEST. He was chosen for widening the understanding of schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms that infect hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, including children.

Schistosomes are parasitic worms that live in certain types of freshwater snails and enter an individual when skin encounters contaminated freshwater through wading, swimming, bathing or drinking. The disease impacts almost 240 million annually and is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn more about Dr. Collins and his research >

Physical Sciences

“Dr. Aiden’s research has been no less than transformative and his multidisciplinary approach to science has been key to his discoveries. He doesn’t just use genetics, he uses computation, physics and other specialties to tackle these big questions of how the human genome folds and fits inside a single cell nucleus and how manipulating that process leads to potential clinical application. The impact of this work is just unbelievable.”

Brendan Lee, M.D., Ph.D. (NAM), Professor and Chair of Molecular and Human Genetics and Robert and Janice McNair Endowed Chair in Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine

Erez Lieberman Aiden, Ph.D.

World-leading biophysical scientist Erez Lieberman Aiden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Physical Sciences from TAMEST. He was chosen for dramatically impacting the understanding of genomic 3D structures and the role and processes of the human genome.

Dr. Aiden’s research looks at the physical architecture of the human genome, which is over two meters long and folds up to fit inside a microscopic cell nucleus, and studies how the folding process is tied to governing gene regulation and how cells function.

Learn more about Dr. Aiden and his research >

Technology Innovation

“When you look at the research in the geophysical imaging, it is very clear that Dr. Li’s work is redefining the industry standard for seismic surveying. This CSI technology allows the oil and gas industry to produce these seismic surveys in less time, with less shots and receivers, and most importantly, with less of an environmental impact. It really has and will transform the way we do our work moving forward.”

Jie Zhang, Ph.D. (NAE), Founder and Chief Scientist, GeoTomo LLC

Chengbo Li, Ph.D.

ConocoPhillips Inventor Chengbo Li, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation from TAMEST. He was chosen for his innovations in industry-leading Compressive Seismic Imaging (CSI) technology and the development of core algorithms and software infrastructure.

Exploration seismology is one of the most powerful tools in the oil and gas industry. It takes images of the earth through seismic surveys to create a comprehensive model of subsections of the earth. Larger surveys require thousands of receivers creating seismic waves for each shot and take thousands of shots in a grid pattern to create the seismic data.

Dr. Li found a way with CSI technology to lessen the labor and environmental footprint of the seismic survey process. Instead of working in a regular grid, CSI sets the sensors and shots in a non-uniform but optimal way and utilizes mathematical optimization to reconstruct the survey grid using dramatically fewer data points than conventional methods. Doing so has changed the landscape of seismic surveys by tremendously reducing the number of channels, shots and days required to complete the process.

Learn more about Dr. Li and his research >

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