CNSM Faculty Win Big with NSF CAREER Awards

Published January 22, 2024

Congratulations to Dr. Andrea Balbas and Dr. Alex Klotz, in Earth Science and Physics respectively, on their recent National Science Foundation CAREER Awards! CAREER Awards are some of the most prestigious offered by NSF, given to those "who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization."

Dr. Andrea Balbas, assistant professor in Earth Science
Dr. Alex Klotz, assistant professor in Physics and Astronomy

Dr. Klotz's research primarily focuses on experimental and computational studies of biomolecular topology—the 3-D architecture of molecules produced by living organisms, while Dr. Balbas is investigating the tectono-magmatic response to a transitioning plate boundary in the California Borderlands—adjustments in tectonic plates leading to shifts in the Earth’s magma and seismic activity.

The award is also meant to provide an early career foundation for integrating research and education – something that, as METRIC mentors, both are experts in. For Klotz, an Assistant Professor of Biophysics, there really is no separation between the two, saying “I am excited to expand the scope of my research to support more student research projects, as well as about the stability and opportunities for student travel that five years of funding will bring."

As mentors in the METRIC program, Balbas and Klotz regularly work one on one with underrepresented students to encourage and help them through everything from conducting the research to presenting it at conferences. Mentors also provide guidance on graduate school applications and are an essential resource in finding student internship opportunities. Learn more about METRIC's impact.

Students often go into internship work early on, with one of Dr. Balbas's students, Hannah Paradis, even following in her footsteps on a Nautilus Expedition in August 2023. These kinds of opportunities set students on a track beyond academic success and into their future careers.

For Balbas and Klotz, student success is not simply a distant goal, it is a fundamental priority. “It is a tremendous honor to receive this award,” said Balbas, "and I am very excited to work with as many students as I can while conducting this research."