Bear wins Hettleman Prize

Thursday, August 26, 2010 — Four promising faculty members in diverse fields have been awarded the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bear wins Hettleman Prize click to enlarge James Bear, Ph.D.

They are James Bear, Ph.D., associate professor of cell and developmental biology in the School of Medicine; Yufeng Liu, Ph.D., associate professor of statistics and operations research, Garyk Papoian, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and Krista Perreira, Ph.D., associate professor of public policy, all in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Hettleman Prize, which carries a $5,000 stipend, recognizes the achievements of outstanding junior tenure-track faculty or recently tenured faculty. Phillip Hettleman, who was born in 1899 and grew up in Goldsboro, established the award in 1986. He earned a scholarship to UNC, went to New York and in 1938 founded Hettleman & Co., a Wall Street investment firm.

When Bear joined the faculty in 2003, he established a research program focused on the molecular basis of cell motility. His work, which department chair Vytas Bankaitis called “simply meteoric,” has been focused on a family of motility proteins, the Coronins.

In 10 papers, including two in the prestigious journal Cell, Bear demonstrated that Coronins are instrumental in a fundamental process of controlling the actin cytoskeleton, the cell’s internal framework. This groundbreaking research has changed the direction of the field, Bankaitis said.

Bear, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, recently received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist Award supporting his research into proteins associated with cell motility and melanoma.

The scientist’s work has contributed significantly to the translational research of the Lineberger Center’s melanoma and brain tumor teams, said Shelley Earp, center director and Lineberger Professor of Cancer Research.

“He is an exemplar of a new breed of cell biologists who are devising new cellular and molecular biological methods to study fundamental processes,” Earp said. “In addition to providing stunning images, these novel techniques are often performed in live cells and allow dynamic measurements to be made.”

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