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White House Early Career Science Award: Ali Khademhosseini

By Louise Fenner | Staff Writer | 13 October 2011
Ali Khademhosseini (Courtesy of Ali Khademhosseini)

Ali Khademhosseini

This is one of three profiles of Iranian-born scientists living in the United States who are receiving the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Washington — Ali Khademhosseini, a researcher in bioengineering and regenerative medicine, is a recipient of the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.

Khademhosseini is internationally recognized for his work on engineering artificial tissues for various applications ranging from biomedicine to robotics.

Born in Iran, Khademhosseini immigrated with his family to Canada at age 12. He was educated in Canada and the United States and is now an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Khademhosseini is currently a visiting scholar in biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is “one of the most imaginative and innovative young biomaterials and biomedical scientists. Ali’s contributions will have major impact in medical research,” said Nicholas Peppas, chairman of the biomedical engineering department there.

In 2007, Khademhosseini was named by Technology Review magazine as one of the top young innovators under age 35 for his tissue-engineering research. (Tissue engineering uses living cells as engineering materials for research ranging from testing new drugs to creating replacement tissue for organs and other body parts.) Khademhosseini creates building blocks of cells, such as heart cells, that are combined with other types of cells to recreate the structurally complex arrangements found in natural tissues. “By giving cells the same interconnections they have in the body, Khademhosseini hopes to create tissues that can be used to test new drugs and, eventually, to rebuild organs,” according to Technology Review.

Khademhosseini was part of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research team that published a paper in 2011 citing innovations in creating tiny particles made of polymers that are used for targeted delivery of drugs and as structural scaffolds for building artificial tissues. The research found ways to make microparticles of nearly any shape and to create them from a much wider range of materials, greatly expanding their usefulness in medicine.

THE EARLY CAREER AWARD

The recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers were announced by President Obama in September. The award is intended to recognize “some of the finest scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge during the 21st century,” according to the White House announcement of the awards.

In addition to their scientific work, award recipients are selected because of their community service. Khademhosseini and his laboratory staff mentor five to 10 students each semester through a program that supports research partnerships between MIT undergraduates and faculty. In 2004, Khademhosseini was named MIT’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor.

He received his doctorate in bioengineering from MIT and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto in Canada. According to his website, Khademhosseini is an author on more than 160 peer-reviewed journal papers and numerous other publications. His work has been cited more than 4,500 times.

“I would like to pursue some of the work we are doing in the lab and push it to be used clinically to treat patients,” Khademhosseini said in an email. “Translating our research into improving patients’ lives is our goal and seeing it happen over the next few years would be great.”

He is also affiliated with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences Technology and other institutions.

Khademhosseini is looking forward to the October 14 White House ceremony, when the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers will be conferred on 94 recipients.

“This is a very humbling experience and is recognition of the wonderful mentors and students that I have had over the years,” he said. “I am very proud to be receiving this recognition with so many other great scientists. Also meeting the president will be an unforgettable experience.”

Among the award recipients are two other scientists who were born in Iran and now live in the United States: Yasamin Mostofi of the University of New Mexico and Salman Avestimehr of Cornell University.

The White House announcement on the awards is available on the White House website.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)

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