Campus News in Brief

Urban now department head

The department of biological sciences has named Nathan N. Urban as its new head. Urban, who in 2005 was named one of the country’s top 50 science and technology innovators by Scientific American, succeeds John Woolford, who has served as acting department head since the death of Elizabeth Jones in June 2008.

Urban has been a member of the department’s faculty since 2002. He conducts neurobiological research on campus, focusing primarily on the olfactory system, which controls the body’s sense of smell. Urban’s research is done on the molecular and cellular levels and aims to discover how neurons interact within the system.

Besides being named as one of the top innovators in 2005, Urban has received additional awards, including, most recently, the Association for Chemoreception Sciences 2009 Young Investigator Award and the 2007 Polak Young Investigator Award. Other awards and honors include Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Family Career Development Professorship in the Biological Sciences and the Human Frontiers in Science Young Investigator’s Award.

Urban received his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh before becoming a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and, later, earning a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh.

Varshney wins Churchill grant

Carnegie Mellon senior chemistry major and science and humanities scholar Swati Varshney has been awarded the Churchill Scholarship, which grants her funding for a year of post-graduate study at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Varshney is one of only 14 students nationwide to receive this award.

Varshney plans to obtain her master’s degree in micro- and nanotechnology enterprise at the university next year. This degree will blend business and science, something that Varshney has done in the past while working at Plextronics, an international technology company founded by Rick McCullough, Carnegie Mellon’s vice president of research.

On campus, Varshney has participated in the Chemistry Student Advisory Council and the Women’s Leadership Institute.
After using the Churchill scholarship to obtain her master’s at the University of Cambridge, Varshney intends to return to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, focusing on polymeric biomaterials and materials science.

Vashney also recently received the nationally competitive Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which helps students to pursue careers in the sciences.