By: CARTER DEJONG
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Shahir Rizk has become the first faculty member at IU South Bend to receive the Cottrell Scholar Award. Only eight faculty in the entire IU system have ever received the award.
“I am really grateful for the support that I have here from my colleagues and our amazing students,” Rizk said.
Rizk was selected for the award for his research into reversible self-assembly of bio-responsive nanostructures.
“We are trying to use proteins to make nanostructures that come together and fall apart in response to some sort of signal,” he said.
Studying these nanostructures and how they respond to different biological signals will allow for the development of glucose sensors and even advancements in drug delivery systems. According to Rizk, his research could eventually lead to the development of nanostructures that flow in the bloodstream and are able to attack specific diseases.
Every year, the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) names 24 scientists at U.S. universities that are dedicated to combining education, science and research.
According to the RCSA website, “The Cottrell Scholar Award develops outstanding teacher-scholars who are recognized by their scientific communities for the quality and innovation of their research programs and their academic leadership skills.”
Recipients of the award are also invited to the annual Cottrell Scholar Conference in Arizona this summer. The event brings in about 100 educators from universities throughout the U.S.
The award also comes with a grant of $100 thousand. Some of this money will go to lab supplies and equipment. The money will also be used to fund education.
“This money doesn’t just go to support research, it can also support teaching, so developing new tools in the classroom,” Rizk said.
He encourages his students to take part in the discussion of policy issues in science.
“I will have them read articles with opposing views and then I open it to discussion and have them try to understand the other person’s view,” Rizk said.
Rizk believes that understanding someone’s social environment is important to educating them in the area of science.
Rizk always stresses the importance of science communication to his students. This means preparing them to share their ideas with others, even those who oppose them.
“We want to create a meaningful discussion,” he said. One way the students have done this is by getting involved in the community. “We have fantastic students. I graduated from IUSB so I know the environment and I know the impact we make in the community,” Rizk said.
In addition to his teaching and research, Rizk is the faculty advisor to the Biology and Chemistry Club at IU South Bend. Those students organize events aimed at connecting with the community.
“As a club, we have a lot of events where we have science demonstrations, a lot of times they have a theme,” he said. Some of the themes of past events have included chemistry in space, and climate. These events are often geared towards children but can be fun for all ages.
In 2016, Rizk was also selected for the “Michiana 40 under 40” award. This award is presented by the South Bend Chamber of Commerce and the Young Professionals Network South Bend and is given to young influential people in the community.