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K-State's Culbertson receives $530,000 National Science Foundation award

The National Science Foundation has awarded $530,000 to Kansas State University's Christopher Culbertson, assistant professor of chemistry, for his research to develop chemical analysis tools for "lab-on-a-chip" devices.

The five-year award is through the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, program.

The CAREER program helps promote the career development of university researchers and teachers who show promise of becoming academic leaders of the 21st century. Award recipients are selected based on career development plans that creatively integrate research and education.

Culbertson, who joined the K-State faculty in 2002, has proposed developing universally applicable methods for detecting and identifying proteins and peptides. His method will not require tagging these molecules, as is generally necessary now to measure them at low concentrations. Rather, his chemistry, in microfluidics -- an emerging field within the realm of the nanotechnologies -- will create the basis for miniaturized, hand-held instruments capable of analyzing proteins and peptides in very small sample volumes, such as from a single white blood cell.

Proteins and peptides are key molecules in the body because they are responsible for essentially much of the communication that occurs within and between the cells, said Culbertson.

"Unregulated protein expression is responsible for various types of cancers and other genetically inherited diseases," he said.

Many proteins that are of interest in terms of disease are expressed at very low levels normally, Culbertson said. "We have proposed an analytical method for detecting those proteins at low levels without tagging them first."

Culbertson's project goal is to miniaturize the chemical analysis instrumentation. Analytical chemists use instruments to tell what's in materials.

"We want to take an instrument that weighs 100 pounds and is 2-by-2-by-2
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Contact: Christopher Culbertson
culbert@k-state.edu
785-532-6685
Kansas State University
1-Feb-2006


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