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Eric Stemp Awarded NSF Grant

Eric Stemp, associate professor, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in spring 2004 for more than $300,000 for his project titled “Toward a Molecular Understanding of DNA-Protein Crosslinking via Guanine Oxidation.” Although this subject matter sounds complex, Stemp has developed this project into an incredible research opportunity for Mount students. The purpose is to observe oxidative damage to DNA, a relevant and timely study that may help reveal how individuals develop illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and other life-threatening diseases. This marks the second NSF grant Dr. Stemp has been awarded for this cutting-edge research, which during its first phase resulted in two publications co-authored by MSMU students.

The NSF is an independent government agency that was established in 1950 to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense. Grants from the foundation are extremely competitive and difficult to obtain. This year, the NSF only funded approximately 15 percent of the proposals they received. Not only did Stemp receive full funding for his project, he received the highest ranking—an outstanding—a status received by only five of the 107 proposals submitted.

Stemp is extremely proud of both his students and the College, all of whom he attributes to helping the Mount receive this award for the second time. “This project is not as much about my research as it is our research,” stated Stemp. “Grants such as this benefit the entire College by establishing it as both a quality teaching and dedicated research institution, a balance that is very difficult to strike. My students are responsible for the outstanding research on this project, and with this grant we will build this excitement and take this project to the next level.”

Through NSF funding, Stemp will be able to purchase new equipment and supplies; provide stipends for both himself and his students who will perform research during the summer months; supply a salary for a postdoctoral associate who will help teach and oversee the project; and provide travel stipends for students who will go to the annual American Chemical Society Conference to hold talks and present posters on their research.

Most importantly, this grant will position the College on the leading edge of this growing field by providing fundamental research that will help scientists design drugs and medications for some very serious diseases. According to Physical Sciences and Mathematics Department Chair Eleanor Siebert, “This renewal of his [Stemp’s] grant from the NSF attests to the high regard in which his work is held. Despite a full teaching load and outstanding teaching evaluations, he continues to be active in his field of scientific research focusing on oxidative damage to DNA. We are fortunate to be able to count Eric Stemp as one of our faculty members.”

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