KU engineering professor, research leadership team member wins research award
LAWRENCE — A professor of engineering and a member of the senior research leadership team at the University of Kansas is being honored for leading research that fuses biology, materials science and engineering into repairing tissue functions, addressing dental and oral diseases and restoring oral health as well as developing sustainable and renewable biobased products for multiple sectors.
Candan Tamerler is the 2023 winner of the Distinguished Scientist/Engineer Award, presented by the Functional Materials Division of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, the leading organization for more than 12,000 member scientists and engineers working in industry, academia and government around the world. She will receive the award March 20 in San Diego during the society’s 152nd annual meeting.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award,” Tamerler said. “I am grateful to the award committee, my colleagues and especially for my research team and students.”
Tamerler, the Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering Program at KU, is being cited for her outstanding contributions to the field, particularly in integrating biological mechanisms into the design of multifunctional hybrid materials that mimic nature.
Her research focuses on the engineered peptides and protein systems as an integral component of functional materials and devices addressing medical technologies and bioeconomy. Her team’s notable works include strategies developed for prevention of oral diseases, restoration of oral health and for designing sustainable and renewable products derived from biobased resources or designed as protein or enzyme mimics for multiple sectors.
Using data mining, bioinformatics and — recently — machine learning tools combined with function relationships, Tamerler’s team has designed a number of multifunctional biomaterial interfaces and surfaces and built biohybrid materials. Her work has led to biomaterials ranging from biomimetic tooth repair to antimicrobial peptides combating infection, to photopolymerizable peptide-polymer hybrids as next generation adhesives, as well as self-assembled biobased catalyst systems and sensing modalities.
“Dr. Tamerler has accumulated an exemplary record of scholarship,” said Kalpana Katti, a distinguished professor and science lead of Center for Cellular Biointerfaces in Science and Engineering at North Dakota State University, in nominating Tamerler for the award. Katti describes the work as “along the lines of mimicking nature at the molecular scale,” designing peptides as “molecular synthesizers and assemblers in molecular building blocks,” then integrating them into structures with engineered characteristics that provide robust uses in both technology and medicine.
Tamerler has nine patents, has been published more than 150 times in peer-reviewed publications and has been lead, co-lead or participant on research that has drawn more $20 million from national and international funding agencies and industry. She is an elected Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Fellow of the Turkish Academy of Science (TÜBA).
Tamerler long has brought an interdisciplinary approach to her work. In 2005, at Istanbul Technical University, she founded and led the Molecular Biology-Biotechnology and Genetics Research Center with members in engineering, arts and sciences, funded by European Union, state and endowment.
She joined the faculty at the University of Washington and led research there before coming to KU in 2013. Tamerler now serves as associate vice chancellor for research at KU, after having served three years as the School of Engineering’s associate dean for research.