Desai receives Dawson Biotechnology Award

UCSF bioengineer Tejal Desai, PhD, will receive the 2012 Paul R. Dawson Biotechnology Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) at the group’s annual meeting in July.

The award honors Desai for her contributions to contemporary teaching and scholarship in biotechnology. She is a faculty member and vice chair for education of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine

After earning her PhD in bioengineering from UCSF/UC Berkeley in 1998, Desai was the first faculty hire in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was instrumental in starting the new department and developing new curricular and laboratory approaches to bioengineering education.

She went on to head a new center in bionanotechology and bio-microelectromechanical systems (bioMEMS) at Boston University, before joining the UCSF faculty as a full professor in 2005. She is also the chair of UCSF/UC Berkeley’s Joint Graduate Group in Bioengineering as well as UCSF director of the two schools’ Masters in Translational Medicine program.

As a scientist, Desai’s areas of focus include drug delivery—such as using particles designed with nanostructured surfaces to give them both bioadhesive and biomimetic properties—and tissue engineering. Her work is supported by many patents, as well as support from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and major pharmaceutical companies.

Desai has published more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, served as an editor of an encyclopedia in bioMEMS and nanotechnology, and as senior editor of Langmuir, a leading American Chemical Society journal in colloids and interfaces, as well as associate editing several other journals.

As a teacher, Desai worked in collaboration with Frank Szoka, PhD, a former Dawson Award recipient and BTS department colleague, to extensively redesign the PharmD program’s drug delivery course, incorporating modern dosage formulations and principles of engineering. The revised course is now among the most highly evaluated by the School’s student pharmacists.

Her teaching and mentoring have been recognized by the NSF New Century Scholar award, the UC Berkeley Alumni Award, and teaching excellence recognition from the UCSF School of Pharmacy.

“Seeing that a young scientist can achieve so much in both teaching innovation and scholarly productivity should inspire others,” said Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh, AACP executive vice president and CEO. “That is why this year’s recipient is so extraordinary.”

Desai is the fourth School of Pharmacy faculty member to be recognized with the prestigious award. Besides Szoka, former winners include BTS colleague and department co-chair Kathy Giacomini, PhD, as well as former faculty member, Wolfgang Sadee, Dr.rer.nat.


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About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.