Canavan Group Honored at International Symposium

Canavan Group Honored at International Symposium

UNM Engineering Professor Dr. Heather Canavan in October became a fellow of the American Vacuum Society for her innovative and sustained contributions to the understanding of stimulus-responsive materials such as bioactive polymers.

Canavan was honored at a ceremony in Long Beach California, where Phuong Nguyen, a graduate student in Canavan’s group, was awarded the Dorothy and Earl Hoffman Award for her outstanding research using stimulus-responsive polymers to improve patient experiences to prevent colorectal cancer.

Canavan’s fellowship acknowledges her outstanding efforts “leading transformative, innovation-focused educational platforms that encourage women and underrepresented minority student participation in STEM fields.”

Canavan said her award recognizes both educational and research contributions.
“I couldn’t do one without the other. It was Phuong’s Vietnamese heritage that provided the spark to transform the unpleasant experiences that patients have drinking GI prep liquids into a more palatable “bubble tea” experience,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had that inspiration without her. I’ve been fortunate to work with so many talented young people over my 15-year career at UNM, and they’ve all influenced our research with their backgrounds and skills. So I see this award as a recognition of their hard work, too.”

Nguyen said she was humbled to receive her recognition.

“The awards, to me, were recognition that the work I do is important and interesting within the scientific community. I’m excited that UNM’s diversity  and background in engineering is contributing to exciting new directions that can improve the lives of patients all across the nation,” she said.

“I’m hoping to continue my research as a medical student at the UNM’s School of Medicine by furthering my analysis and moving towards the potential of clinical trials to be used in humans within the near future.”

Julia Fulghum, director of Advance at UNM, an NSF-funded program to recruit, retain and promote women STEM faculty, said Canavan deserves the prestigious recognition.

“I knew when Heather was hired as an assistant professor that she would accomplish great things in the lab and the classroom. AVS Fellow status is limited to 0.5 percent of the membership and it is great to see Heather’s wide-ranging accomplishments recognized by this honor. It was wonderful to see Heather and Phuong honored in the same ceremony.”

At the same award ceremony, Canavan’s postdoc advisor was presented with the Medard Welch award, the highest award presented by the society.  In attendance at the award ceremony were his wife, colleagues, and many former students, as well as Nguyen, his ‘academic grandchild’.”

After the award ceremony, Canavan said “I am grateful to the AVS for recognizing my work with this commendation. But it is even more special that I got to share the spotlight with my postdoctoral advisor and student who were also recognized, as well. It was a great honor.”

UNM’s Vice President for Research Gabriel Lopez said Canavan and Phuong’s awards bring light to the importance of their work.

“These awards to Heather and Phuong are great recognition of research and mentoring excellence at UNM by an international scientific organization that has had significant presence in New Mexico for many years. Heather has joined an elite group of AVS Fellows that includes former UNM VPR Julia Fulghum and former School of Engineering Dean Joseph Cecchi,” he said.