Nangia Wins ACS Outstanding Junior Faculty Award
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has awarded its competitive OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award to Assistant Professor Shikha Nangia of the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award is given to up to four outstanding tenure-track junior faculty members who are engaged in novel and important work in computational chemistry. It provides recipients with $1,000 and an opportunity to present their work at the ACS National Meeting, taking place in San Diego March 13-17.
Nangia earned the honor for her efforts using computational techniques to identify strategies to enable transport of drug molecules across the blood brain barrier. The barrier is a selectively permeable wall that prevents harmful chemicals in the bloodstream from entering the brain. This defense mechanism presents a challenge because the same barrier that protects the brain also deters drug molecules from reaching the brain to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“An analogy to the blood brain barrier is that of Velcro,” says Nangia. “There is a layer of tightly packed cells held together via ‘Velcro’ with blood on one side and brain on the other—this is the barrier. The prongs of the ‘Velcro’ are made up of proteins. What we need to do is find ways to open the ‘Velcro’ and allow medicinal drugs in the blood to enter the brain. If we can understand the structure of these proteins, we can design strategies to open them when we need to get medicine through.”
Nangia’s award will be presented during the Computational Chemistry (COMP) symposia at the 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition on Tuesday, March 15, during the COMP Poster & Awards Session. The theme of this Spring’s event is “Computers in Chemistry.”