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Updated 11:00 AM July 16, 2007




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Xu named to highly selective Pew Scholars Program

Xian-Zhong Shawn Xu, Life Sciences Institute (LSI) research assistant professor and assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the Medical School, has been named a Pew Scholar, the only one selected from U-M.

(Photo by Peter Smith Photography)

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of California, San Francisco announced June 19 that Xu and 19 additional exceptional researchers had been selected as 2007 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences. The program invests in early to mid-career scientists. As a Pew Scholar, each scientist will receive a $240,000 award over four years to help support his or her research, as well as gain inclusion into a unique community of scientists that encourages collaboration and exchange of ideas.

“Shawn is an exceptional scientist. He was ranked among the very top individuals of his status at Johns Hopkins, Cal Tech and UCSF and has brought a new dimension to Michigan,” says Alan Saltiel, LSI director. “He has clearly emerged as a future star, learning to take risks and follow leads to answer questions of fundamental significance. He is creative, rigorous and highly focused young scientist who applies creative approaches to his work.”

Xu studies neuronal signaling, behavior and drug addiction in the genetic model organism C. elegans. In particular, he is interested in understanding how ion channels, membrane receptors and calcium signaling molecules regulate neural activity and plasticity. He takes a multidisciplinary approach involving molecular genetics, cell biology, functional imaging, neurophysiology and genomics.

Research in his group has revealed that individual TRP channels, an emerging superfamily of poorly understood channels that are conserved from worms to humans, regulate a variety of biological processes including drug addiction and sensory perception. He showed that the worms could be used to model nicotine addiction and proprioception.

Among many other honors Xu also received a Harold Weintraub Graduate Student Award and a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The Pew Scholars selection process is rigorously competitive. Scholars are selected by a distinguished national advisory committee, chaired by Dr. Torsten Wiesel, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and a 1981 Nobel laureate. The program, funded by Pew through a grant to UCSF, totals nearly $5 million for this class of scholars.

For the full list of 2007 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences at

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