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Biophysicist Receives $300,000 Grant from National Science Foundation to Study Protein Phase Behavior

Jun 25, 2009 -- Dr. Neer Asherie, assistant professor of physics and biology at Yeshiva University, was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study protein phase behavior. The title of the grant, which will begin on September 1, 2009 and continue over three years, is “Understanding the Self-Assembly of Globular Proteins: Phase Behavior, Interactions, and Chirality.”

The award is an NSF RUI (Research at an Undergraduate Institution) grant and will support Asherie’s research with undergraduate students at YU’s Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women.

“My students and I study protein phase behavior,” explained Asherie. “In other words, we study what happens when you take a solution of proteins and change the conditions. Right now, it is impossible to predict what will happen. Our long-term goal is to make such predictions possible.”

“By studying the changes which occur in protein solutions,” he added, “we hope to better understand protein condensation diseases, such as cataracts or Alzheimer’s, and improve processes such as the industrial purification of proteins.”

Asherie came to YU in 2004 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he did postdoctoral work in biophysics and where he received his PhD in physics in 1998. Since his arrival at YU, Asherie has made a great effort to involve undergraduates in his research.

Sam Blass, a recent YU graduate, was awarded an NSF graduate fellowship to the PhD program in materials science at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities after spending three years conducting extensive research with Asherie.

“All those hours in the lab made me want to do more of this,” said Blass, who credits Asherie’s “love of science and his eagerness to share it with his students” as inspiring him to pursue a career in research.