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Two College of Science & Mathematics Professors Receive Distinguished Scholarship Award

Cal Poly honored two professors from the College of Science & Mathematics with the Distinguished Scholarship Award for 2014-15: Lars Tomanek in the Biological Sciences Department and Philip Costanzo in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department. Wyatt Brown in the Horticulture & Crop Science Department also received the award.

Costanzo conducts wide-ranging research in the emerging field of polymers and nanomaterials. One of his major areas of focus is developing materials whose properties change when the configuration of the material's atoms changes. Various triggers, such as light or temperature, can cause a change in atomic configuration, which could, for example, erase scratches in paint.

All of Costanzo's numerous publications at Cal Poly have included student co-authors, many of whom have gone on to doctoral programs at top-tier universities. He has received more than $1 million in grant funding since his arrival in 2007.

"Phil shows what's possible with undergraduate researchers. He provides them a significant experience doing relevant, applied research in polymer chemistry," said Nanine Van Draanen, chair of the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department.

Tomanek's research focuses on how marine organisms respond to climate change. Using a cutting-edge technique called environmental proteomics, Tomanek and his students analyze how environmental stresses affect protein production, which can predict an organism's reaction to climate change.

Since coming to Cal Poly in 2005, Tomanek has been awarded $2.4 million in grant funding, much of it from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Many of Tomanek's 23 peer-reviewed papers include his undergraduate and graduate students as co-authors, and his students have led NSF-funded workshops for faculty from other universities. Tomanek is also a co-leader of the Environmental Effects on Coastal Organisms network of CSU researchers.

"Lars' work not only provided opportunities for other biology faculty to branch out into new directions using his proteomics approach but also gave our students the opportunity to do work more often performed by doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers at other universities," said Chris Kitts, chair of the Biological Sciences Department.

The Distinguished Scholarship Award was established in 2003 to recognize faculty achievements in research, creative work and other professional development activities. The award supports research and other creative endeavors and encourages the professional growth of Cal Poly faculty members.

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