UT Southwestern's Endowed Scholars Program bolsters independent research

UT Southwestern's newest endowed scholars are (from left) Dr. Jen Liou, Dr. Uttam Tambar and Dr. Jiang Wu.
UT Southwestern's newest endowed scholars are (from left) Dr. Jen Liou, Dr. Uttam Tambar and Dr. Jiang Wu.

DALLAS – April 13, 2010 – Three researchers selected through the unique and highly competitive Endowed Scholars Program in Medical Science joined the UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty in 2009. With the addition of the talented group, 57 investigators have launched their independent research careers at the medical center as part of the program.

Established in 1998 with $60 million in philanthropic funds for endowment, the program provides seed money and four-year support for early-career investigators to carry out independent, groundbreaking research projects. Each highly skilled basic-science or clinical researcher joins UT Southwestern as a tenure-track assistant professor.

 “The Endowed Scholars Program represents a firm commitment from
UT Southwestern, and from our generous donors, to foster the success of talented scientists who are at the beginning of their careers as independent investigators,” said Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at UT Southwestern, who directs the program.

Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern, said, “The donors who make this program possible have shown tremendous insight and foresight. Their investment in these researchers has enhanced UT Southwestern’s reputation for excellence. Since the inception of this program, four scholars have become investigators with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and overall, scholars have garnered more than $73 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.”

Members of the 2009-2013 class of endowed scholars are:

Dr. Uttam Tambar, assistant professor of biochemistry

The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research, Dr. Tambar is developing new strategies to synthesize complex, biologically active molecules. Traditional methods of chemical synthesis have relied on building complex molecules in a series of separate steps. Dr. Tambar is interested in developing new chemistry methods that can be used to construct such molecules in a single operational step. The result could be more economical and less wasteful chemical processes that have applications in drug discovery and development, as well as in advancing knowledge in basic cell biology.

Dr. Tambar earned his doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology after graduating from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics. Before joining the UT Southwestern faculty, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in chemistry at Columbia University, where he was supported by a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.

Dr. Jiang Wu, assistant professor of physiology and developmental biology

 Dr. Wu, the Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar in Medical Research, is investigating how undifferentiated stem cells of mice develop into specific cell types, using brain stem cells as a model system. Understanding how stem cells in the brain are regulated and how they develop could lead to methods to control their growth and differentiation and serve as the basis of new therapies for neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and spinal-cord injuries.

She received a Ph.D. in molecular biology from UT Austin after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in genetics from Fudan University in China. Dr. Wu completed postdoctoral work at Stanford University as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research associate.

Dr. Jen Liou, assistant professor of physiology

The Sowell Family Scholar in Medical Research, Dr. Liou is investigating pathways to developing a better understanding of how calcium is transported into cells. Calcium influx is essential to activate lymphocytes key to immune responses to infection; allows nerve cells in the brain to fire; and enables muscle cells to contract. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Liou worked with the Alliance for Cellular Signaling, and discovered a novel cell-signaling pathway that controls calcium influx. Her work has applications in the search for new treatments for such conditions as allergy, autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Liou earned her doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of California, San Francisco after majoring in zoology at National Taiwan University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular pharmacology at Stanford University, and was a research associate in chemical and systems biology there before joining the
UT Southwestern faculty.

 

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Media Contact: Amanda Siegfried
214-648-3404
amanda.siegfried@utsouthwestern.edu

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