September 19, 2000

Wang Named Keck Scholar

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Thanks to her research efforts in the area of molecular mechanisms of gene expression, Prof. Michelle D. Wang, physics, recently received the Keck Distinguished Young Scholar Award, which will award $1 million in grants for research to the University over the next five years.

Wang was selected as the Cornell candidate by a University committee after being nominated by Douglas Fitchen, former chair of the physics department and physics professor last summer.

“She seemed a great choice because of her strong training in both physics and biology,” Fitchen said.

Wang has been using laser techniques and analysis, supported by the facilities here at Cornell, in her research of biological processes at the molecular level, Fitchen said.

“Cornell has one of the best physics departments in the country,” she said. “The department, and University in general is very cooperative, and they are especially supportive of young faculty members.”

Wang has been studying biological molecular motors, such as RNA polymerase molecules that move along a DNA template during cell division to help transcribe genetic information from DNA into new RNA.

“This is a very exciting area of research,” Fitchen said. “This is just the kind of example of physics and biology coming together that will be promising for the future.”

Founded in 1954 by the late W.M. Keck, founder of Superior Oil Co., the program is designed to advance the early career development of the country’s brightest young biomedical scientists.

In its second year, the grant process began when the Keck Foundation sent a letter to President Hunter R. Rawlings III requesting nominations. According to Wang, each year, 30 universities are invited for nomination, one per university and only five awards are granted.

Nationally, the foundation selects 10 candidates for an interview, from which five are awarded the prestigious grant, Wang said.

Wang will continue to teach physics at Cornell, alongside her research.

Archived article by Tanvi Chheda