Lydia Contreras Receives Norman Hackerman Award for Biosensor Research

Headshot of Lydia ContrerasLydia Contreras, assistant professor and the Chevron Centennial Teaching Fellow in Chemical Engineering, has been awarded a Norman Hackerman Award for her work to develop biosensors to monitor effects of environmental pollutants.

The annual award recognizes early-career researchers who have expanded the field and comes with a $100,000 prize. The highly competitive honor is named after Dr. Norman Hackerman, the internationally renowned chemist and former president of both The University of Texas at Austin and Rice University in Houston, Texas.

The funding will support Contreras’ work to construct and characterize a diverse collection of biosensors to identify how pollutants in the air can impact people’s health, particularly asthmatics and allergy sufferers.

“We’re working on ways to better alert people about when air quality poses a threat to their health, and especially children’s health,” said Lydia Contreras. “Mechanistic knowledge about how air quality affects important biomolecular features is essential to understand how air quality impacts adverse health effects. This will help develop better-informed strategies regarding regulation of pollutants.”

Contreras’ other national accolades include: selection as a 2014 National Institute on Aging Butler-Williams Scholar, a 2013 NSF Career Award, a 2013 Air Force Young Investigator Award, a 2011 Defense Threat Reduction Agency Young Investigator award and selection to participate in the 2011 National Academy of Engineering’s third Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium.

Before joining the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in 2011, Contreras received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 2003 and a Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Cornell University in 2008.

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