Panel Summary #1 - Strategic Areas of Focus

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Panel Summary #1
third and successful attempt
PROPOSAL NO.: 0449742
PANEL SUMMARY:
Intellectual Merit:
The research plan is clearly, logically and convincingly presented. The synthesis of a
large number of surfactants with single and double amino acid modifications followed by
detailed characterization of their physical and chromatographic properties will make
effective undergraduate research projects with a rational scope. The formation of crosslinked stabilized polymer micelles is a clever extension of this work. The computer aided
analysis of the results as well as molecular dynamics modeling of chiral interactions are
also reasonable undergraduate projects. Some reviewers felt that the goals were too
ambitious in terms of the number of molecules synthesized and characterized. This
concern is balanced by the effective past mentoring of 34 undergraduates. The PI might
want to consider combinatorial methods for synthesis and for the identification of the best
chiral binding agents. There was also a feeling that the importance of the goals was not
that high because it was focused on just amino acid head groups, although it would
clearly be useful to have better chiral matrices for pharmaceutical separations. The
concern about the lack of independent publications was understood as a result of this
being a very young department (the PI was the 1st of two faculty), and by recent
presentations of undergraduate research results.
The PI?s analysis of undergraduate educational problems is very insightful and
impressive. The identification and recruitment of undergraduates into research after their
freshman year is on target and will be a success given the PI?s extensive past efforts in
undergraduate research. His support of a Science Club to encourage undergraduate
presentations of current science at local high schools should be effective. In particular,
his analysis of the challenges to effective faculty teaching is, in and of itself, a strong
justification for funding this proposal. The faculty training program will be extremely
valuable. The institutional support for this part of the proposal was very strong with
50% release time. As a native American, the PI has demonstrated very successful efforts
to bring minorities into chemistry research. The PI has also spearheaded a number of
successful undergraduate research grants and equipment grants.
Broader Impacts: The research results will have broader impacts through the
development of better chiral separation matrices. The identification of better chiral
surfactants will be one step, and once developed the stabilized polymeric micelle might
be an important new chiral separation approach. Two key problems in education are
identified and novel solutions proposed. The early introduction of students to research at
the end of the freshman year is key to enhancing their interest and retention in chemistry.
The PI?s insightful analysis of the needs for faculty training are impressive and the
response of the PI, department and institution to this challenge even more impressive.
This effort has the possibility of spreading and being much more broadly utilized. The
encouragement and retention of minority and female students in chemistry at Texas
A&M that will result is a also significant impact.
Summary Statement: A logical and clear proposal is presented to perform research that is
challenging while still being appropriate for undergraduates. Educational activities to
enhance undergraduate research and to mentor faculty in effective teaching are very
important, leveraged and novel ideas. Broader implications include better chiral
separation media for pharmaceutical analysis and the leveraged improvement of
undergraduate education especially through the faculty mentoring.
PANEL RECOMMENDATION: Highly Recommend
Review #1
PROPOSAL NO.: 0449742
INSTITUTION: TX A&M U Corpus Christi
NSF PROGRAM: ANALYTICAL SEPARATIONS & MEAS.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Billiot, Eugene J
TITLE: CAREER: An Integrated Program of Research Focused on Understanding
Chiral Recognition of Branched Amino Acid Based Molecular Micelles, Mentorship,
Outreach, and Faculty Development
RATING:Very Good
REVIEW:
What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
This proposal seeks to investigate the chiral separation capacity of a related set of
branched polymeric surfactants that incorporate L-amino acids as the relevant chiral
recognition element. Synthesis of these materials is to be followed by characterization of
their physical properties with the goal of using these unique pseudostationary phases in
the technique known as micellar electrokinetic chromatography (MEKC). In addition to
conventional approaches for characterization employing emission spectroscopy, NMR
and IR, the PI plans to incorporate computer modeling as a means of optimizing
analyte/resolving agent interactions.
The PI has considerable experience in the laboratory of Dr. Isiah Warner involving the
synthesis and characterization of polymeric amino acid-based surfactants, dating back to
publications from the late 1990's. While this work is new in that it is based on branched
molecular micelle systems rather than the linear systems completed in Dr. Warner's
laboratories, it I remains very closely related the applicant's Ph.D. work. Preliminary
results are briefly mentioned for the branched systems in the proposal, however
supporting figures were not included. Modeling studies represent an interesting
extension of this work and will be completed with the assistance of Dr. Kenny Lipkowitz
and North Dakota State University, who has provided a letter of support regarding the
proposed collaboration. Thus, while the research proposed is not exceptionally novel and
is an extension of prior work to a significant degree, the experiments are well suited to an
undergraduate program and the proposal contains some novel elements (e.g., modeling).
The facilities for synthesis and characterization of these materials appear to be in place at
the applicant's home institution sufficient to permit completion of the development plan
as described, or arrangements have been made with other local colleges/universities
where necessary (e.g., for data acquisition via NMR). The home institution (Texas A&M
University Corpus Christi, TAMUCC), does not offer graduate degrees in chemistry,
which will greatly amplify the impact among undergraduate students but create additional
complications for maintaining continuity throughout the award period, a problem the PI
intends to address through the request of funds for a full-time technician. Of note, to date
there is no record of submission/acceptance of any publications that do not include the
graduate research advisor, or that would appear to have resulted from work conducted
solely at TAMUCC since the current appointment began in 1999. While this does cause
some concern for the reviewer, the record of NSF support is outstanding (PI or co-PI on
four separate NSF awards), and clearly the applicant has applied much of his time on
faculty development and establishing a strong undergraduate research infrastructure and
culture at TAMUCC over the past five years, The University's commitment of support to
provide 50% faculty release year-round is regarded as a strength of the submission.
What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
The PI has already demonstrated through a variety of venues and activities including
faculty development seminars, MRI and REU grants, and mentoring undergraduate
research students (noting the significant number of these students and associated research
presentations) that he is strongly committed to scientific education. The potential for
impact of the proposed efforts on underrepresented minorities is outstanding at
TAMUCC based on the PIs own track record. The PI's interest in further addressing the
K-12 population through undergraduate majors in science clubs, etc. is admirable,
although the reviewer is concerned that the efforts required for sustaining the
infrastructure of the research program, engaging in faculty development, engaging in K12 outreach including assessment activities, and curricular instruction, etc. may make it
difficult for the PI to realize his full research potential including the broader impacts of
the proposed studies. Both the PI and the University should be cognizant of this potential
concern and continue to work to reduce the overall service load when possible. In
summary, broad impacts resulting from Dr. Billiot's efforts at building and sustaining a
climate for research and faculty development have already been realized at TAMUCC,
and there is every reason to anticipate that such contributions will continue throughout
the duration of the CAREER award.
Summary Statement
Review #2
PROPOSAL NO.: 0449742
INSTITUTION: TX A&M U Corpus Christi
NSF PROGRAM: ANALYTICAL SEPARATIONS & MEAS.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Billiot, Eugene J
TITLE: CAREER: An Integrated Program of Research Focused on Understanding
Chiral Recognition of Branched Amino Acid Based Molecular Micelles, Mentorship,
Outreach, and Faculty Development
RATING:Very Good
REVIEW:
What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
Research activity
The research goal is to understand chiral recognition of amino acid-based molecular
micelles through the characterization of physical and chemical properties of these
structures and through molecular modeling. I would rate the scientific quality of the
research as good, with its importance being the long term application of better micellar
systems for the separation of chiral compounds in the pharmaceutical industry, for
example.
The proposed research will advance knowledge and understanding specifically in the
field of amino acid-based micelles, but not much beyond that. The significance is thus in
improved separation strategies for important analytes. No new original concepts are
presented, however the use of branched amino acids is relatively creative and may prove
quite successful. I would rate the significance of the research activities as average-togood.
The three main objectives of the research are the synthesis, characterization and modeling
of molecular micelles. While the objectives may have a high intellectual merit, they may
be too advanced for undergraduates at the freshman level (and certainly for high school
students). Techniques like NMR, FTIR, CE, fluorescence and particularly molecular
dynamics in modeling, which are all proposed for the micelle characterization, are
relatively advanced and may discourage rather than attract freshman- and even
sophomore-level undergraduates.
From the methodology described in the research proposal for the characterization of the
branched amino-acid molecular micelles, I would say the PI is highly capable of making
an integrative contribution to research. The PI has the necessary training to carry out the
research, as well as access to resources. The types of experiments needed have been well
thought out, showing where external collaborations will be necessary due to the nature of
TAMUCC (no PhD program), and are doable, at least by an experienced undergraduate.
Educational activity
The quality and importance of the proposed educational activities is very high, which can
be attested to by the number of successful grants already held for the training of
undergraduates in research and for the acquisition of equipment used for teaching and for
undergraduate research projects. The educational component of this application has
strong intellectual merit, as evidenced by past performance: 12 publications/presentations
made possible by the grants mentioned above.
Both the Student Focus and the Faculty Focus parts of the education program have been
well planned out and are much more innovative than simply designing or updating
analytical chemistry courses. I would rate highly the PI's capability to make an
integrative contribution to education in chemistry at TAMUCC. Firstly, he has already
demonstrated recruitment of underrepresented undergrads early in their studies.
Secondly, he has already started weekly seminars for faculty members designed to make
them more effective teachers and research advisors. This work is supported by several
higher-level administrators at TAMUCC. The success of the faculty seminars has already
been demonstrated by the high level of attendance from outside the Department of
Physical and Life Sciences.
What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
Research activity
The broader impacts of the research on its own are not outlined by the PI, but have
instead been listed as impacting on the recruitment of students from underrepresented
backgrounds and students at the freshman level into his research group thus encouraging
the pursuit of a BS or higher degree in chemistry. In this respect, the proposed activity
strongly promotes training and learning. It also meets the criteria of the CAREER grant
to integrate research and education.
As already proven to be the case, results will be disseminated by publications and
conference presentation to the scientific community. The benefit to society of the
proposed activity is several steps removed from the specific research goals, in that the
understanding gained from this activity will improve the analysis of chiral drugs, which is
of benefit in the long term to the pharmaceutical industry.
Educational activity
The broader impact of the proposed educational program will be the increased number of
minority and female students pursuing higher degrees and thus making more significant
contributions to society in the long run. In turn, these scientists will be able to mentor and
influence new generations of women and minorities who are entering the field of science.
The objectives of the educational component of this application, particularly the
development of faculty seminars to improve teaching, the goal to involve freshmen in
research projects and the recruitment of students from underrepresented backgrounds, are
admirable. I would rate them highly. The obvious significance of these activities is to
raise the overall level of scientific training of undergraduates from all backgrounds at
TAMUCC, which in the long term means highly qualified graduates entering the work
force, or going on to higher studies. The benefits of this educational program to society in
general are thus very high.
Summary Statement
In the above assessment, I would weight the evaluation criteria as follows:
Intellectual merit of proposed research activity: 35%
Intellectual merit of proposed educational activity: 10%
Broader impacts of proposed research activity: 25%
Broader impacts of proposed educational activity: 30%
The departmental support letter for the PI is very strong, and shows a high level of
commitment by the Department of Physical and Life Sciences to both the research career
of the PI and his teaching efforts. Recognition of the research and teaching strengths of
the PI are evident in the recently acquired teaching and research infrastructure on the part
of the Department.
In summary, I would rate this application as good-to-excellent. The PI has demonstrated
creative career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education. He
has the potential to make an important contribution to research and education in
analytical chemistry.
Review #3
PROPOSAL NO.: 0449742
INSTITUTION: TX A&M U Corpus Christi
NSF PROGRAM: ANALYTICAL SEPARATIONS & MEAS.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Billiot, Eugene J
TITLE: CAREER: An Integrated Program of Research Focused on Understanding
Chiral Recognition of Branched Amino Acid Based Molecular Micelles, Mentorship,
Outreach, and Faculty Development
RATING:Very Good
REVIEW:
What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
The PI proposal regarding the understanding of the chiral recognition of branched amino
acids based molecular micelles is a definitive proposal with great implications for the
pharmaceutical industry.
What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
While molecular micelles have been pioneered by other researchers, the PI will present a
deeper understanding of the fundamental factors contributing to chiral selectivity using
polymeric surfactants. The preliminary data presented is valid and very promising. The
result of this research will help promote CE as an analytical method of choice for chiral
recognition.
In addition, the PI has presented an excellent program which will encourage freshman
and sophomore students to join a research group. The extended impact of the proposed
research is obvious considering the importance of chiral recognition in the area of drug
analysis.
Summary Statement
Review #4
PROPOSAL NO.: 0449742
INSTITUTION: TX A&M U Corpus Christi
NSF PROGRAM: ANALYTICAL SEPARATIONS & MEAS.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Billiot, Eugene J
TITLE: CAREER: An Integrated Program of Research Focused on Understanding
Chiral Recognition of Branched Amino Acid Based Molecular Micelles, Mentorship,
Outreach, and Faculty Development
RATING:Excellent
REVIEW:
What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
This proposal is to develop and characterize chiral amino acid-based surfactants for chiral
micelles for use in enantiomeric separarations. The PI's plan is very ambitious. All
possible single amino acid and dipeptide symmetric branched undecyl aspartic,
glutamic and malonic acid based polymeric surfactants using the amino acids glycine,
L-alanine, L-valine, and L-leucine, and their linear counterparts (a total of 80
surfactants) will be synthesized. He gives rationale plans to accomplish this, although it
sounds like a lot of work. The proposal is then to characterize these with NMR,
fluorescence, molecular modeling and CE. Each will provide needed information to
understand and develop these as chiral micelles. This is an impressive plan.
I also like the educational aspects proposed. Most of the CAREER proposals I have seen
involve some incredibly work-intensive ideas to educate the primary community. While
laudable thoughts, these are just not practical for a young faculty member. Here, the PI
outlines excellent goals that he can accomplish in line with his other responsibilities. He
proposes to develop a new faculty teaching mentoring program to help get new faculty
with virtually no training in teaching to get off the ground faster. Experts and senior
faculty will be asked to speak as part of this program. Training of new faculty is, if at all,
usually given across the board to all disciplines and is therefore not terribly useful. To
have a program like this in chemistry is an excellent idea. The PI also plans to
incorporate undergraduates, especially minorities, in research at a very early stage. This
is the best one-on-one experience we can give these students and again is something he
can do within the framework of being a faculty member aiming for tenure. I also note that
the department pledges release time for the research and release time from service to
implement the faculty mentoring program.
What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
The development of better chiral micelles and therefore separations is an important goal
and has both application and fundamental outcomes. This work will likely increase the
scientific base in terms of new science with these molecular structures and many
molecules, including many drugs, that are now difficult to separate will be easier. The
development of faculty mentoring programs is something that, if it works, could spread to
other institutions and help chemistry retain more of the best students.
Summary Statement
This proposal is to develop and characterize chiral amino acid-based surfactants for chiral
micelles for use in enantiomeric separarations. The PI outlines excellent educational
goals that he can accomplish in line with his other responsibilities including a faculty
mentoring program and getting students in the lab early. This is an exciting proposal.
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