Wednesday, December 10, 2008

post 10: neil branda

Neil Branda. I typically dont go to professors up North, but this one was sent a LONG time ago,by one of my readers, Cari. I have to say, just wow. He's an organic chemist, and it really makes me wish I went that route now. Oh well, too late, but here's a little about Prof. Branda. From reading about him and a few of his papers, he's quite an accomplished chemist, which of course just makes things even sexier. Not only is he physically attractive, but he's quite intellectually attractive as well. Le sigh.

Prof. Branda is a professor at Simon Fraser University, and he's the executive director of 4D labs, and the CTO of Switch Materials, a company he founded to commercialize his research. From what I've read, he's a Mirkin of Canada, considering he's also the founder and director of the Nanomed Canada Research Network, using nanotechnology for medicinal purposes (he is a Canadian Chad Mirkin!). Other honors include being one of Canada's Top 40 under 40, a 2005 NSERC Steacie Fellow and a Canada Research Chair in Materials Science. Basically, he's very accomplished, which adds hotness points from the intellectual side. So here's a press release I found not too long ago about him..

His research program lies at the interface of organic chemistry and materials science with a focus on designing and synthesizing molecular switches – molecules that change their structure and function when triggered with light, electricity or chemical stimuli. we work closely with materials scientists and the medical research community to deliver unprecedented designer photoswitches to solve practical challenges in molecular photonics, electronics, therapeutics and diagnostics. His research program involves integrating photo- and electro-responsive molecules into digital data storage systems, synthetic reagents and catalysts, sensors and dosimeters and drug delivery systems, using light as a trigger to selectively unmask known drug architectures as well as using optics to control important metabolic intermediates and enzyme cofactors.

His ability to shift shapes sounds like the stuff of science fiction. In real science, though, Neil Branda's cutting edge ability to manipulate molecules has made him the first researcher at Simon Fraser University to earn a Steacie Fellowship - one of Canada's premier science and engineering prizes.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) awards only six of the fellowships nationally. They go to outstanding Canadian university scientists or engineers whose research has earned them an international reputation early in their careers.

Branda's fellowship has earned him an $114,000 annual supplement for two years to top up a five-year, $60,500 annual NSERC Discovery grant, which is nearing expiration. “This award provides me with a unique opportunity to devote the next two years of my life to exploring how molecular manipulation can benefit health sciences, specifically drug delivery in treating prostate cancer,” says Branda.

Within 11 years of earning his doctorate, Branda has become a Canada Research Chair in materials science and director of molecular systems for SFU's new research centre, 4D Labs. He has learned how to reversibly change the shape, structure and function of molecules - the building blocks of life - on command, and use colour to signal their change. In collaboration with other researchers at SFU and Vancouver General Hospital, Branda is preparing to do tissue experiments. They will identify how light, electricity, and other environmental stimuli can trigger structural changes in molecules and influence their interaction.

“In biology, molecular shape is everything,” says Branda. “Molecular interaction is based on complementary shapes that fit together like a lock and key system. If we can change and control the shape of molecules then we can pre-program molecular interactions to better deliver drugs to a targeted area in the human body. Ultimately, our goal would be to deactivate or alter disease producing molecular interactions.”

“When I recruited Neil four years ago, I believed he was an individual of high enough calibre to secure the Steacie,” says Mario Pinto, VP-research. “The recipe for success at SFU is having the foresight and courage to recruit aggressively individuals more innovative than ourselves, and Neil is such a person.”

The Steacie fellowships are named in honour of Edgar Steacie, a physical chemist and National Research Council president from 1952 to 1962. The awards ($180,000 over two years or $60,000 for Canada Research Chair recipients) are coveted for their prestige and their ability to leverage more funding. Steacie awards enable universities to hire teaching and administrative relief so that the recipients can focus on their research.

Really impressive huh. So, on the intellectual and on the hotness, he's a HABANERO!


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