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UM professor earns prestigious CAREER Award from National Science Foundation

The University of Montana

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IMAGE: University of Montana Assistant Professor John McCutcheon earned a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his study of the bacteria living inside of cicadas. view more

Credit: Todd Goodrich

MISSOULA - University of Montana Assistant Professor John McCutcheon recently received the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award for junior faculty.

The Faculty Early Career Development award, also known as a CAREER grant, is given annually to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

CAREER grant awards generally range from $400,000 to $1 million. McCutcheon will receive $746,301 over five years to continue his lab's work, which aims to understand the origins of mitochondria and chloroplasts and how they integrate with the cells in which they are found. McCutcheon uses cutting-edge genomic experiments to study the bacteria that live inside cicadas as models for this process.

"It's a terrific honor for me and my lab," McCutcheon said. "But it also speaks more broadly to the quality and impact of the genomic, ecological and evolutionary work being done at UM."

The work involves extensive computing, therefore the educational component of McCutcheon's research will teach computer programming and its applications to Montana students at all levels. A major goal of the project is to increase the competitiveness of UM students by giving them the computational tools they need to handle diverse, complex and large sets of data.

Each year, between 350 and 400 assistant professors nationally earn CAREER grants. McCutcheon joins other UM scientists who have received this honor in the past.

"This NSF CAREER award for Dr. McCutcheon is greatly deserved and an excellent investment in a young faculty member at UM who has already established national recognition for his research," said Scott Whittenburg, vice president for research and creative scholarship at UM. "John, along with Jeff Good from UM's Division of Biological Sciences and with support from the Murdock Trust, has worked to establish the UM Genomics Core as a vital resource for researchers working in genomics and bioinformatics. The award is indicative of the excellent group of young scientists that have chosen the University of Montana as their home and form the foundation for growth of campus research and increased national and international recognition."

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