Published: Feb. 12, 2020 By

 Kristi Anseth in lab

CU Boulder Professor Kristi Anseth has received one of the most prestigious recognitions in the life sciences: a L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award.

Anseth, a distinguished professor and Tisone professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is being recognized for her “outstanding contribution in converging engineering and biology to develop innovative biomaterials that help tissue regeneration and drug delivery,” according to UNESCO.

She is one of only five women in the world, and the only recipient in North America, to receive the recognition this year.

“I am tremendously honored and feel so very fortunate to be part of the broader University of Colorado community,” Anseth said. “However, I must first acknowledge that this is a shared honor. I have the pleasure of mentoring an amazing group of undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral associates in my laboratory, and these individuals have contributed tremendously to the basis for this recognition. I am so thankful to them for their dedication and CU’s commitment to supporting not only the education of these individuals but their transition to future leaders.”

Anseth said she’s eagerly anticipating the opportunity to celebrate women scientists and engineers and to play a more visible role for the next generation. The mother of a 12-year-old daughter, Anseth said she hopes her daughter’s generation is inspired to pursue careers in STEM and that girls see no bounds to their possible careers.

She also commended her colleagues in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the BIoFrontiers Institute for their support.

“I am fortunate to work in an environment with such brilliant colleagues who work tirelessly to advance our fields and educate students to develop technologies and ideas for supporting the well-being of people, society and the planet,” Anseth said.

Anseth, who is also the associate director of the BioFrontiers Institute, has a long and storied career in applying the principles of chemical engineering to the biomaterials field, authoring over 330 papers of extensive, highly impactful research and earning numerous awards and recognitions. She is one of only a handful of individuals worldwide elected to all three national academies: the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. She also has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors and the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering.

“Professor Anseth has proven time and again, through her stellar career of research and achievement, as well as her teaching and mentoring, that she is a world-class scientist and engineer,” said Keith Molenar, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “The L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards recognize the best of the best, and she is absolutely deserving of that honor. We’re proud that she calls the CU Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science home, as she brings immeasurable value to the research and education happening here.”

“Kristi Anseth has been a leader in cutting-edge biomaterials research for over two decades,” said Charles Musgrave, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. “Her work in the tissue engineering and drug delivery fields has led to the development of key technologies that will have an incredible impact on regenerative medicine and drug delivery. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than her. My colleagues and I are proud of her many accomplishments.”

Anseth earned her doctoral degree in chemical engineering from CU Boulder in 1994 and joined the faculty shortly thereafter, focusing her research on developing biomaterials for medical applications.

Rob Davis, dean emeritus of the College of Engineering and Applied Science and Tisone endowed chair in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, nominated Anseth for the award. He cited her unparalleled research accomplishments in biotechnology and cell biology and the translation of her technologies into medical products, including in-situ-forming materials for enhanced bone regeneration, hydrogels for chondrocyte delivery and more. 

He also emphasized her dedication to her students, recalling his first observation of her after she completed her PhD. She had volunteered to teach an 8 a.m. undergraduate course, winning over the sleepy and skeptical students with her enthusiasm and passion for the material.

Support for the nomination also came from other distinguished leaders in academia, including professors Paula T. Hammond and Robert Langer of MIT, Provost David A. Tirrell and Professor Mark E. Davis of the California Institute of Technology, and Professor Nicholas A. Peppas of the University of Texas at Austin.

The international For Women in Science awards, now in their 22nd year, recognize the accomplishments of women who work in the biotechnology, ecology, epigenetics, epidemiology and infectiology research fields. The L’Oreal Foundation and UNESCO bestow five of these awards each year, recognizing one researcher each from Africa and the Arab States, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, Latin America and North America. Fifteen additional “Rising Talents” are recognized from these regions as well.

Anseth and the other awardees will be honored at a ceremony March 12 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Each award recipient will receive €100,000 (about $109,000). The awards seek to increase the representation and awareness of women in science and their achievements to inspire more women to consider careers in the sciences.

The late Deborah Jin, a professor of physics and JILA fellow at CU Boulder, also received the award in 2012.