Lessons in nanotechnology from nature

Seungpyo Hong­

Seungpyo Hong: using nanomaterials to detect tumor cells. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

This year, UIC honors 10 outstanding researchers with the Researcher of the Year Award, a $5,000 cash prize. Five established faculty members were named Distinguished Researchers and five early career scientists were honored as Rising Stars.

Seungpyo Hong
Rising Star, Basic Life Sciences

Thousands of lives are lost each year to breast cancer, ovarian cancer and leukemia. If Seungpyo Hong can save even one life, he will consider his work a success.

Hong, assistant professor of biopharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy, combines nanotechnology and biomimetics (taking ideas from nature to solve problems in engineering) to create new polymer-based nanomaterials that can detect circulating tumor cells and create artificial surfaces to remove damaged cells from the blood.

His work could help solve some of the current challenges in biomedical research.

“We want to take advantage of what nature gives us,” said Hong, who came to UIC in 2008 after postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His research could also provide the technology for targeted delivery of multiple drugs to cancer cells, he said.

Since joining the UIC faculty, Hong has published 26 papers (he has more than 40 in print in his career). He has 10 issued or pending patents and his work has been cited in other scientific articles more than 2,800 times.

Although his career is relatively young, Hong has already had a major impact on the cutting-edge interface area of chemistry, polymer science, biology and nanotechnology, said William Beck, professor and head of biopharmaceutical sciences.

“In addition to his outstanding research, he has also made major contributions to our educational efforts to produce the next generation of leaders,” Beck said.

Hong’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as well as other internal and external sources.

Other awards he’s received include a new investigator grant from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the College of Pharmacy’s Vahlteich Research Scholar Award and the University of Michigan’s Overberger Award.

Other Researchers of the Year

Natasha Devroye: Rising Star, Natural Sciences & Engineering 

Xiaoping Du: Distinguished Researcher, Basic Life Sciences 

Leon Fink: Distinguished Researcher, Humanities 

Stacie Geller: Distinguished Researcher, Clinical Sciences 

Rachel Havrelock: Rising Star, Humanities 

Bing Liu: Distinguished Researcher, Natural Sciences & Engineering 

Ben Superfine: Rising Star, Social Sciences 

Krista Varady: Rising Star, Clinical Sciences 

Maria Varelas: Distinguished Researcher, Social Sciences 

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