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The annual Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement have been awarded to four associate professors who exemplify groundbreaking and innovative research along with future career promise.

The annual Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement have been awarded to four associate professors who exemplify groundbreaking and innovative research along with future career promise.

Li Qian, PhD; Greg Wang, PhD

August 23, 2019

The late Phillip Hettleman, a member of the UNC class of 1921, and his wife Ruth established the prestigious award in 1986 in order to recognize the achievements of outstanding junior faculty. The recipients will be recognized at the September 13 Faculty Council Meeting, and later this semester, each one will deliver a presentation on their research.

This year’s Hettleman Prize awardees are: Uffe Bergeton, PhD, associate professor in the Asian studies department within the College of Arts & Sciences; Kavita Singh Ongechi, PhD, associate professor in the maternal and child health department within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; and from the UNC School of Medicine, Li Qian, PhD, associate professor in the pathology and laboratory medicine department, and Greg Wang, PhD, associate professor in the biochemistry and biophysics department.

With high potential for translational and clinical impacts, Li Qian is conducting groundbreaking research with implications for basic mechanisms of cellular differentiation. Her innovative work on regenerating or repairing an injured heart includes using stem cell approaches to restore cardiac function following heart attacks. By seeking to understand the molecular basis of cardiac muscle cell function, Qian and her team strive to improve efficiency and clinical applicability of cellular reprogramming in heart disease. In addition to her associate professor with tenure appointment, she also serves as the associate director at the UNC McAllister Heart Institute (MHI).

Her work has created a paradigm shift that changes how we think about cell differentiation and suggests new therapeutic approaches, according to Victoria L. Bautch, PhD, and George A. Stouffer, MD, co-directors of the MHI.

Qian holds a doctorate in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Fudan University.

A few of her recent awards include the 2019 Triangle Business Journal’s Rising Star Health Hero Award, the American Heart Association Katz Prize for Basic Research, Boyalife Prize in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine from AAAS, and the McAllister Young Investigator Award from the Medical Foundation of North Carolina. In addition, she was awarded UNC’s Outstanding Mentor Award in 2017, becoming the youngest recipient to ever receive it.

Greg Wang has developed a highly successful research program focused on the epigenetic changes that occur in cancer, along with development of potential new therapeutics to treat this terrible disease. Using cutting-edge technologies including biochemistry-based discovery tools, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genomic editing, and next-generation sequencing-based genomics profiling, he leads a research team to dissect and understand the mechanisms and pathways by which a particular gene alteration leads to development of cancer including aggressive acute myeloid leukemia and prostate cancer. His scholarly work covers a broad range from fundamentals of epigenetic and genetic regulation to translational works in drug discovery and therapeutics. Wang is also a UNC Lineberger Cancer Center member, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar, and a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar.

“There is no doubt that his productivity will continue to grow in the future, and that he will become one of the top researchers in cancer and epigenetic research not only at UNC-Chapel Hill but also in the country, “ said Leslie V. Parise, PhD, professor and chair of the biochemistry and biophysics department.

Wang holds a doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of California at San Diego and carried a subsequent postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University. He also holds a master’s in cancer biology and a bachelor’s in biochemistry from Fudan University.

Wang’s research is supported by an impressive series of awards from various cancer research foundations including the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, the American Society of Hematology, Concern Foundation for Cancer Research, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, Gilead Sciences Research Scholars Program, When Everyone Survives (WES) Leukemia Research Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense. In the past year, he was awarded three R01 grants from NIH.

Read more about the Hettleman Prize here.