Assistant Professor of Physics Shiladitya Banerjee has received a five-year, $1.6 million Maximizing Investigators Research Award from the National Institutes of Health to support his research on biophysical models and mechanisms of cellular adaptation to environmental stress. "We want to uncover the mechanisms by which living organisms and cells respond to dynamic changes and stresses in their environment," Banerjee said of his work, which focuses on building theoretical and computational models of living systems. "The traditional understanding is that cells can adapt to stress by changing their internal biochemistry. Our hypothesis is that cells can also do that by changing their shapes and biomechanical properties," he said. In research published this year in the journal Nature Physics, Banerjee studied how bacterial growth and morphologies evolve over multiple generations in response to different doses of antibiotics. He and his collaborators concluded that changes in bacterial cell size, shape and mechanical properties enabled bacteria to grow more resilient to antibiotics. In this project, Banerjee plans to extend this line of inquiry to other model organisms to observe and model how they adapt to changing nutrient, temperature or antibiotic conditions. Along with bacteria, Banerjee will seek to study the embryos of worms and other living things to better understand how they can survive stressful conditions in a state of dormancy.
Jessica Hammer, the Thomas and Lydia Moran Associate Professor of Learning Science and the interim associate director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, will receive the Best Interdisciplinary Approach to STEM Education Award at the 25th Annual Carnegie Science Awards Celebration on Friday, November 5. Through games, Hammer confronts important issues like teaching people about humanitarian demining, creating community for women of color in STEM fields and destigmatizing conversations about mental health. She encourages students to engage in the iterative design process, take intellectual risks and learn from mistakes. Many of her students have gone on to full-time careers in the game industry or started their own companies, and they credit her with giving them an edge in making good design arguments, creating a collaborative atmosphere and embracing failures as a step on the road to success. The Carnegie Science Center will honor leaders in Pittsburgh science, technology, and education communities this year with awards in eight categories.
Robert M. Dammon, professor of financial economics, has been awarded the Richard C. Green Professorship in Financial Economics. Dammon has been a faculty member at the Tepper School since 1984. In addition to his research accomplishments, he has been an extraordinary educator— he is a three-time winner of the Tepper School’s George Leland Bach Teaching Award. He served as Associate Dean of Education from 2009-2011 and the ninth dean of the Tepper School from 2011-2020. As a researcher, Dammon is best known as a thought leader developing models of how asset prices, investors’ lifetime savings and portfolio choices, and corporate financial policies are affected by taxation. His paper with Green (Journal of Finance, 1987) is an important contribution that addresses the nature of tax arbitrage and its connection to progressive taxation and equilibrium asset prices. Dammon had a close association with Green throughout much of his career. They both were doctoral students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked closely together on the finance faculty at Carnegie Mellon for more than three decades. Find out more.