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Chemistry Professor Awarded $1.3M Grant from W. M. Keck Foundation

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The W. M. Keck Foundation has awarded the University of Washington a $1.3 million grant to study technologies that can be used to analyze structures of living cells. The grant is led by principal investigator Joshua Vaughan, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and an adjunct professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Additional investigators include David Baker, Henrietta and Aubrey Davis Endowed Professor in Biochemistry, Xiaohu Gao, professor of Bioengineering, Neil King, assistant professor of Biochemistry, and Justin Kollman, associate professor of Biochemistry.

Joshua Vaughan UW Department of Chemistry
Professor Joshua Vaughan, the principal investigator on the W.M. Keck Foundation grant.

Professor Vaughan’s research group focuses on the development of new high resolution fluorescence microscopy visualization techniques and the application of such techniques to understand the molecular-scale organization of biological systems. This work includes collaborations with biologists and pathologists to apply novel imaging tools to study immune cell development, pathology, and mouse neuronal circuitry.

Professor Vaughan came to the UW in 2013 after serving as a postdoctoral associate and research specialist at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. During his time at Harvard, he focused his work on developing optical microscopy methods for the study of small biological objects.

“We are very grateful to the W. M. Keck Foundation for their support of Professor Vaughan and his collaborators across campus,” said Daniel Pollack, divisional dean of the Natural Sciences. “Their investment in this innovative, cross-disciplinary research helps to drive the impact that the University of Washington is known for. Professor Vaughan’s established leadership in this area will contribute to the success of the transformative work that they are undertaking.”

“Professor Vaughan and his collaborators from the College of Engineering and School of Medicine are proposing to build unique tools to enable high-resolution imaging of specific proteins in live cells,” said Munira Khalil, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “Their work on labeling technologies for  electron and fluorescence microscopy will be a game changer in our ability to visualize the complex machinery of living cells and will enable new discoveries in basic molecular cell biology, biophysics, and medicine.”  

The W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company. One of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, the W. M. Keck Foundation supports outstanding science, engineering and medical research.  The Foundation also supports undergraduate education and maintains a program within Southern California to support arts and culture, education, health and community service projects.

The W. M. Keck Foundation also awarded a grant to Assistant Professor Kelly Stevens in the Departments of Bioengineering and Laboratory Medicine and Pathology in June 2021.


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