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Research Showcase - Hai Lin, Chemistry

Chemistry Professor Wins National Science Foundation Career Award

Obtaining a Career Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is highly coveted and extremely competitive. Hai Lin, an assistant professor of chemistry, received the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) NSF award this spring, the first CAREER award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the second for the University of Colorado Denver. Lin is now supported by approximately $625,000 to carry out his research titled Multiscale Simulations of Chloride Transport Proteins by Combined Quantum and Classis Mechanical Approaches.

"The CAREER program at the NSF is a prestigious grant program that is aimed at providing five years of funding to outstanding scientists at early stages of their independent career," says Mark Anderson, chair and professor of the chemistry department. "The grant has two components—a research component and an educational component. Hai Lin is a computational chemist whose research focuses on trying to understand chloride transport proteins."

Proteins that form channels and pumps for small molecules and ions across cell membranes are critical for all of life. Failure of such proteins to work properly can cause hereditary diseases such as cystic fibrosis, myotonia (muscle stiffness), renal salt loss, deafness, urinary protein loss, kidney stones, osteoporosis and blindness. Understanding the details of the functioning of such proteins and their molecular dynamics is critical to understanding the mechanisms of movements of ions, such as chloride and protons, across membranes. Rigorous computational analyses of such channels and pumps, and the ions and molecules they move across membranes, is one important approach to understanding how these function and might be regulated, or perhaps corrected in cases of malfunction. This computational approach is what is being funded by NSF.

"Progress made in the research will be integrated directly into the curriculum of my Molecular Modeling and Simulation course," says Lin. "And undergraduate and MS students will participate in the research by doing small subprojects. The research program will be integrated into the LAB COATS (Link to Advanced Biomedical Research Career Opportunities and Training Section) program at UC Denver, the goal of which is to retain undergraduates from underrepresented groups in science and assist them with entry into graduate school and the pursuit of careers in research."

"We are extremely proud that Hai Lin has received a prestigious NSF CAREER research award," says Jim Hageman, associate vice chancellor for research at UC Denver. "His leading-edge contributions in computations of complex molecular structures are being recognized; this award will allow him to advance his work in significant ways and to incorporate new elements of this into his teaching."