Assistant Professor of Engineering Petia Vlahovska was one of 15 faculty researchers who were honored on March 14 with a Salomon Award. The competitive grants come courtesy of the Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Awards administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).
“We are the entity in modern society that’s charged with discovery,” said Provost Mark Schlissel,
congratulating the award recipients. “This is what we thrive on, this is what
we’re here for.” Schlissel, like Briant, noted that these awards are important
for jump-starting complex research projects by getting preliminary data. “These
awards help get research projects off the ground and get them competitive for
further funding,” Schlissel said.
The Salomon Awards were established to support excellence in
scholarly work by providing funding for selected faculty research projects of
exceptional merit. Recipients receive as much as $15,000. The Salomon Awards have
been administered by OVPR since 2003, and a total of about $2 million has been
awarded to 132 faculty.
Vlahovska won a $15,000 award for her proposal, “Tension regulated phase separation in
biomimetic multicomponent membranes.” Cells and cellular organelles are encapsulated by membranes composed of hundreds of lipids. This lipid diversity is essential for cell
functions such as signaling: lipid mixtures organize into rafts, which serve as
platforms for molecular-binding events at the membrane interface. Raft dynamics
is regulated by physio-chemical variables like composition, temperature, and
Vlahovska’s proposed research centers on the effects of tension
on raft evolution and stability, which is virtually unexplored due to
difficulties in tension control and quantification. Vlahovska proposes the use
of electric fields and microfluidic flows to create well-defined tension
conditions that will allow her to experimentally investigate lipid demixing and
domain evolution in tense membranes. This knowledge will benefit bioengineering
applications that exploit cell signaling machinery, such as targeted drug