CU Professor Wins Two Awards For Genomics Research, Teaching

February 23, 2005

Ryan Gill, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has received two major awards supporting his research and teaching in genomics totaling $1.15 million over the next five years.

The awards include a National Science Foundation CAREER Award worth $400,000 and a National Institutes of Health K25 Mentored Career Development Award worth $750,000. Both awards were announced in January and recognize excellence in teaching and research by a young faculty member.

The NSF CAREER Award supports Gill's research on new tools and theories to study the evolution of microbial genomes, focusing particularly on the evolution of stress tolerance behaviors in E. Coli, an important organism in biotechnology.

Gill employs gene-chip technology to identify the genetic makeup of the bacteria and to analyze changes as they evolve to resist chemical stress. Such evolutionary mechanisms as the acquisition of new genes, the mutation of existing genes and the recruitment of genes for a different purpose offer clues to the engineering of organisms to better produce relevant pharmaceuticals or industrial chemicals.

At the same time, Gill's NIH career development award will support his further training in clinical areas that are relevant to his engineering research. By working with Michael Vasil in the CU School of Medicine along with Norman Pace and Shelley Copley in the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department at CU-Boulder, Gill is seeking to improve understanding of how Pseudomonas aeruginosa develops antibiotic resistance and why it does so in such an unusually rapid manner.

Pseudomonas is one of the leading sources of infection in cystic fibrosis patients and is known to have developed resistance to many conventional antibiotics. Gill is again using gene chips and network theory to investigate this organism.

Since joining the CU-Boulder faculty in 2001, Gill also has received several other research and equipment awards, which have helped to support 17 undergraduate and 10 graduate students doing research in his laboratory.

His NSF CAREER Award also will fund outreach to underrepresented students in engineering along with the creation of an experiential learning module on genome evolution for undergraduate education.

Gill earned his doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Maryland in 1999 and did postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two years before coming to CU-Boulder.

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