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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

South Carolina Faculty Joins NSF Faculty Early Career Awardees

Dr. Mohammed Baalousha, an assistant professor at the Center for Environmental NanoScience & Risk (CENR) in the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences (ENHS), has been awarded the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program Award —receiving $510,000 to support his research and education activities over a five-year period within the context of his professorship at the South Carolina. With approximately 2,500 proposals submitted annually, CAREER is highly competitive and is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards program for junior faculty. Awardees like Dr. Baalousha exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of research and education—activities that build a solid foundation for a lifetime of leadership in these areas.

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[Photo: Dr. Mohammed Baalousha]

The review panels seek compelling and novel research ideas, through which the proposed activities have the potential to have a broader impact and transform the way others will view this particular research problem in the future. They are also looking for innovative but feasible education plans that will enhance the understanding of the researcher’s area of expertise among graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 students along with the broader community.

Dr. Baalousha exceeded the panel’s selection criteria with his proposal to advance research and education related to engineered nanoparticles, which are currently considered an emerging environmental contaminant. Their increased production and use in consumer products results in their release to the environment—notably accumulating in aquatic ecosystems—and some of them have been shown to be toxic. “Particles in the nanoscale range have always been around us in nature,” says Dr. Thomas Chandler, an ecotoxicologist and co-PI on another of Dr. Baalousha’s NSF grants, as well as dean of South Carolina. “What’s different now is the release to nature of uniquely engineered man-made nanoparticles of unknown health and environmental consequences. Dr. Baalousha, as an environmental chemist and engineer working in public health, is on the cutting edge of detecting and measuring these tiny materials in complex environmental media. That is precisely why he won this very prestigious CAREER award.”

“Unfortunately, at present we are unable to adequately assess the risks related to nanotechnology for humans or the environment because it is difficult to differentiate most engineered nanoparticles from those that occur naturally, making it difficult to quantify engineered nanoparticle exposure concentrations and properties upon release,” explains Dr. Baalousha. “This CAREER award will allow me to develop novel methods that differentiate engineered from natural nanoparticles and measure their concentrations and properties in the natural environment.”

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