UCLA Faculty Career Development Awards

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Profs. Nava and Schmitt

Professors Matthew Nava and Danielle Schmitt have been selected to receive a UCLA Faculty Career Development Awards.

Nava and Schmitt will both receive $15,000, which will assist them as they advance an on-going research project, creative activity, or as they embark on a new project, during the 2023-24 academic year.

The UCLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (UCLA EDI) Faculty Career Development Award (FCDA) program provides eligible junior faculty the opportunity to strengthen their records in research and other creative activity by providing funds to enable them to spend uninterrupted time pursuing research interests or independent study.

About Professor Matthew Nava

Synthetic inorganic chemistProfessor Matthew Nava (pictured top left) will use the funds from his FCDA award to develop new molecular electrocatalysts to probe how to reversibly interconvert hydrogen gas and the hydride anion, potentially enabling new avenues for hydrogen storage and utilization in commodity and fine chemical synthesis.

Nava joined the UCLA faculty in July 2022 as an Assistant Professor and the Jeffrey and Helo Zink Endowed Professional Development Term Chair in Chemistry.  A Southern California native, Nava received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry as a Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) U*STAR Program trainee and his master’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Riverside, working with Professor Chris Reed. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 2017 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Professor Christopher Cummins on Lester Wolfe and Alan Davison Fellowships. Before joining the UCLA faculty, Nava was a joint postdoctoral fellow in Professors Daniel G. Nocera’s and Daniel Kahne’s groups at Harvard. 

The Nava group focuses on efficiently translating molecular structure and reactivity to address frontiers in materials, biological, and energy conversion chemistries. A key area of interest is energy transduction at the molecular level, aiming to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable sources. The lab’s program centers on two main purposes: understanding the role of metals, especially in unusual oxidation states, in materials or biological systems, and enabling reversible chemical conversions for innovative energy storage technologies. To achieve these goals, advancements in synthetic inorganic chemistry will be pursued at the interface of chemical synthesis and application.

About Professor Danielle Schmitt

Metabolic biochemist Professor Danielle Schmitt (pictured at top right) will use the funds from her FCDA award to co-image subcellular AMPK activity along with metabolite flux using biosensors, enabling a greater understanding of compartmentalized metabolic regulation.

Schmitt joined the UCLA faculty as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in July 2022.  An Ohio native, Schmitt obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. There she performed undergraduate research with Professor Bruce Storhoff as a Lewis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation scholar and also interned at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.  Schmitt received her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry under the mentorship of Professor Songon An at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where she used fluorescence microscopy to study metabolons, or phase-separated complexes formed by metabolic enzymes. Her passion for using microscopy tools to interrogate cellular events led Schmitt to join Professor Jin Zhang’s lab in the Pharmacology department at University of California, San Diego, as a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow and an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (RACDA) Fellow. There, she focused on the novel design and application of genetically encoded fluorescent protein-based biosensors, focusing on AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK).  

The Schmitt group employs an interdisciplinary approach to study cellular metabolic regulation. They develop fluorescent protein-based genetically encoded reporters for metabolites, amino acids, and kinases involved in regulating metabolism. These microscopy-based tools help them investigate the spatial and temporal organization of metabolism in single cells. Their ultimate goal is to comprehend the regulation of metabolism in healthy cells and its disruption in disease.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.