Contreras honored as 2013 Air Force Young Investigator

The University of Texas at Austin recently announced that Lydia Contreras won the 2013 Air Force Young Investigator Award for her work on radiation-activated RNA switches for chemical and biological agent detectors.

Contreras is one of nearly 40 scientists and engineers selected for the $15 million program to support researchers with exceptional ability and promise.

"How to detect biological and chemical agents that can cause harm to soldiers is, at its heart, a chemical engineering research problem with global impact," Thomas Truskett, thechair of the UT McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, said. "This award recognizes that some of the most creative solutions in that space, in particular those that involve understanding RNA-based elements with powerful roles in metabolic regulation, are coming from Dr. Contreras."

Contreras' proposal was chosen from more than 190 applications from a variety of fields. The funding she will receive complements the 2011 Defense Threat Reduction Agency Young Investigator Award she received for her work on radioresistant organisms that can be used to help monitor radiation-contaminated sites.

In 2011, Contreras was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's third Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and has been recognized as one of five Keystone Symposia Follows for molecular and cellular biology.