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Release: Immediate

Four UI engineers win NASA research grants totaling over $2.5 million

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Four researchers in the University of Iowa College of Engineering's department of chemical and biochemical engineering have received grants for four separate projects totaling over $2.5 million from NASA's Microgravity Research Program, Huntsville, Ala., to conduct research that may lead to the development of new medical technologies.

The investigators and the amounts of their NASA grants are: David Murhammer, associate professor, $1,073,000; Tonya Peeples, assistant professor, $418,000; Victor Rodgers, associate professor, $533,000; and John Wiencek, associate professor, $700,000.

Gregory Carmichael, professor and interim department chair, said, "It is unusual to have four researchers and four different projects funded at the same time by NASA's Microgravity Research Program. The competition for these funds is great, so it is a tribute to the recognized quality of our faculty."

Murhammer, along with UI chemistry professor Mark Arnold and UI pathology professor Michael Cohen, is conducting research that may improve scientists' understanding of prostate cancer. Their work involves the development of improved methods of simulating the behavior of prostate cancer cells within the human body.

Peeples is studying microbes that thrive in extreme environments with the goal of finding more efficient ways to process waste in space.

Rodgers, with colleagues Murhammer and Larry Oberley, professor of radiology, is evaluating oxidative stress in virally infected cells with the goal of improving our knowledge of how cells respond to free radicals while simultaneously analyzing a simulated micro-gravity device developed by NASA.

Wiencek, who has studied methods of purifying water aboard the space shuttle, is researching techniques to remove impurities from tiny cell growth materials with the goal of furthering related research aimed at developing better treatments for diseases.

The four UI investigators are part of a group of 48 researchers selected by a peer-review process from a field of 165 research proposals for NASA funding. Forty of the grants involve ground-based research, while eight are aimed at experiments to be conducted aboard the International Space Station. Currently under construction in orbit and scheduled for completion in mid-2002, the Space Station will be an orbiting laboratory for 15 cooperating nations.