|Carolyn Bertozzi has been named a MacArthur Fellow for 1999,
one of 32 individuals across the country to receive the prestigious award this year.
Bertozzi is a member of the Biomolecular Materials Program in the Materials Sciences
Division and an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California at
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards the fellowships annually to "the most creative individuals" in all fields of endeavor, based not on applications or recommendations but upon the advice of 100 anonymous "talent scouts" -- some of whom have clearly been on the prowl in the Bay Area recently, since Bertozzi is one of three people at UC Berkeley and one at Stanford to be named this year.
The fellowships, known in the popular press as "genius awards," carry a no-strings-attached, five-year stipend, the amount increasing with age. At only 32 years old, Bertozzi will have to make do with $255,000 -- which she plans to use to encourage secondary-school students interested in chemistry.
According to a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle, when Bertozzi heard the MacArthur Foundation was trying to reach her, she thought "they're probably trying to get ahold of me for a quote about my sister," Andrea, a math professor at Duke University, whom Carolyn regarded as "the smarter one in the family." When she learned she was the recipient, "My first reaction was they got the wrong Bertozzi."
The right Bertozzi was indeed named Carolyn. She got her B.A. from Harvard in 1988 and her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1993. Three years ago she joined Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley after research stints at Massachusetts General Hospital and AT&T Bell Laboratories, with postdoctoral work at the University of California at San Francisco.
In one important line of research, she and her colleagues have found a way to engineer sugar markers on cell surfaces. These can control cell adhesion to materials used in biomedical implants and in the walls of bioreactors, and to electronic devices that could warn of environmental toxins; cell-surface engineering has also been used to tag cancer cells for diagnostic probes and targeted drugs. In other projects, she and her colleagues have developed new organic materials for contact lenses and bone implants.
Bertozzi emphasizes Berkeley Lab's importance to her research, "which would have been quite different if not for my colleagues in the Materials Sciences Division," she says. "The people there focus on collaborative research, across many disciplines. That is a key to encouraging creative thinking -- which is what the MacArthur Fellowships are intended to recognize."
She credits Mark Alper, head of the Materials Sciences Division's Biomaterials Materials Program, as an experienced and dynamic mentor "who is always bringing intriguing new applications to my attention."
On behalf of the division, Alper says, "We were pleased to hear of Carolyn's award, although not at all surprised. She is one of our bright new stars. She is an outstanding scientist, with great creativity and imagination, an exceptional teacher, and a good citizen, always doing her share."