Slice of Life

SU professor earns American Chemical Society Award with research on gene makeup

Courtesy of Shikha Nangia

Shikha Nangia, third from the left, recieved the Rising Star Award, which gives 10 recipients the chance to present their research at a symposium to other researchers in their fields.

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Shikha Nangia is the most recent recipient of the WCC Rising Star Award given by the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee. She is an associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering at Syracuse University, and she teaches undergraduate and graduate studies.

Nangia and her team specialize in the blood-brain barrier and its interactions with molecules that go through the barrier and ones that are rejected. Her research is mostly computational and answers the question of why DNA and genes mutate over time, and how they affect a person. She focuses on the makeup of genes and how DNA and genes can change over time and how they modify. In this way, she connects genetics with disease.

“If you understand how the molecules work together, you need to regulate the barrier and figure out what chemicals you need to do so,” the associate professor said.

The WCC Rising Star Award recognizes 10 individuals who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to their respective fields, according to the American Chemical Society’s website. To be eligible for the award, candidates must be working in an academic, industrial, government or nonprofit environment and have demonstrated immense promise for contributions to their respective fields. Applicants can either self-nominate or be nominated by someone else, and Nangia said she was nominated by a peer and a mentor.

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Winners have the opportunity to present their findings at the WCC-sponsored symposium in the spring. This symposium will recognize the recipients for their hard work and accomplishments in their research as well as inform other researchers and professionals in the same fields.

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Nangia and her research team have been widely recognized by schools and organizations such as the University of Minnesota, her alma mater, as well as Scientia. She said she considers this award a large recognition for small research questions that matter.

“Winning this award shows that what I’m doing is valuable and that my research means something,” Nangia said.

Shikha Nangia

In addition to her Rising Star Award, Nangia has made other contributions within Syracuse and has especially impacted undergraduate and graduate women in STEM. She has partnered with SU’s Women in Science and Engineering program as a mentor for members, especially young women of color, in the Future Professionals Program.

“I admire how she has been training and mentoring all of her students and the impact she’s making on them,” said Shobha Bhatia, co-director of WiSE.

Nangia has served as a faculty advisor for FPP in WiSE that focuses on graduate-level support and development for women in STEM. Her passion and dedication is mentoring and teaching students about methods of research and its potential importance in their careers, Nangia said.

Jingjing Ji, a chemical engineering Ph.D. student, said she has been positively influenced by Nangia’s mentoring in her three years of working with her.

“She’s very kind and patient with her students,” Jingjing said.

Alex Dunbar, the communications manager of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, began his work with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2017 and has since reported on parts of Nangia’s journey with her research. He said he admires the high-level of research that Nangia and her team accomplish, which reflects the team dynamic.

“It’s great to see brilliant people encouraging and supporting one another and advancing work in this way,” Dunbar said. “Professor Nangia does a great job at opening doors for understanding.”

Nangia has also helped Ji navigate the direction of her research, Ji said, and the lab atmosphere is designed to have students learn from one another.

“Research isn’t very easy as a Ph.D. student, and I feel confused at times,” Ji said, “but Professor Nangia helps point me in the right direction and helps me solve the issue.”







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