Bioengineering assistant professor earns award from 3M
Heather Hunt, assistant professor in the MU Bioengineering Department, was awarded a 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award from the global innovation company with operations in more than 70 countries, including a facility in Columbia, Mo.
The company’s three-decade-old award program encourages the pursuit of new ideas by younger university professors to help them achieve tenure while teaching and conducting research.
The award includes a $15,000-per-year gift of discretionary funding for up to three years, or until tenure is earned. The company’s Research and Development Community, in partnership with 3M’s Corporate Giving Program, administered the award.
Hunt first heard about the program from colleagues at different universities who were successful applicants.
“In order to be eligible, you must be in city with a 3M facility,” said Hunt, adding that someone working in research at 3M must make the award nomination.
With support from Jinglu Tan, her department chair, Hunt said she worked closely with Bioengineering Professor Sheila Grant and Chris Kelly, a senior advancement officer at MU, to discover all they could about the award and to navigate the process of identifying someone to put forward a nomination to the company’s 3M Gives program. Don W. Vogt, a 1992 MU mechanical engineering graduate working in 3M’s Electronic Materials Solutions Division as a health care product manager, nominated Hunt.
After an initial review, those with proposals deemed by 3M to have sufficient merit — based on the research’s relationship to the company’s mission — were approved to apply.
Hunt’s proposal, “Toward Healthy Harvests: Next Generation Integrated Food and Water Sensors,” focused on the development of new, low-cost, simple-to-use platforms capable of both identifying and then removing a wide variety of pollutants from drinking water. The topic likely appealed to 3M’s commitment to innovation, environmental stewardship and sustainability. Hunt is hopeful it will lead to extended industrial collaborations with the local 3M facility.
“The fact that it is industry-supported is one of the things that really excites me about it. If you want to do translational research, it’s so important to build collaborations with industry,” Hunt said.
Tan concurred. “Building partnerships with industry is an important goal for the Bioengineering Department,” he said. “This is an exciting step towards a mutually beneficial relationship with 3M.”
Hunt’s efforts to pioneer the award in Columbia on the MU campus have created a pipeline for others on the junior faculty to reach out to 3M for funding.
“The unrestricted awards enable recipients to pursue their own lines of interest and provide an opportunity to come to 3M and interact with their peers,” said Terry Smith, technical director of 3M’s Corporate Research Materials Laboratory.