Rana Ashkar, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, recently won a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) – part of the Oak Ridge National Lab. 

Ashkar, as with other recipients, will receive $5,000 for the 2019-2020 academic year to enhance her research, with an additional $5,000 match from Virginia Tech, for a total of $10,000. She will use the funds to support research that will look at the nanoscale curvature of cell membranes, with an end goal of understanding the functional role of complex cell-membrane shapes and using this knowledge to design synthetic membranes that would serve as protein biosensors for medical diagnostics. 

HaRana Ashkar headshot with whiteboard in background

The award is designed to “enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty,” according to the organization. Since the program’s inception nearly 30 years ago, ORAU said it has awarded 734 grants totaling more than $3.4 million. 

Ashkar was the first faculty hire for the Department of Physics’ Economic and Sustainable Materials program, and is an affiliate member of the Center for Soft Matter and Biological Physics and the Macromolecules Innovation Institute.