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Early promise

Young professor gets a big boost for her cancer research

As she works to accelerate a critical cancer therapy, researcher Christine Duval, PhD, has attracted uncommon federal support. The assistant professor of chemical engineering received an Early Career Research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy worth at least $750,000.

She ranks among only a handful of researchers at Case Western Reserve ever to win the award and is the first known winner from the Case School of Engineering.

Duval is working on a faster and more sustainable means for creating radioactive isotopes, which are used in a new class of drugs to diagnose and treat cancer.

“Dr. Duval is a creative and energetic scientist, and this award recognizes the originality and anticipated impact of her ideas,” Dan Lacks, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said in a news release. “She leverages her expertise in two distinct fields — membrane and nuclear sciences — to propose innovative ways to extract the medically important isotopes from natural systems.”

Duval came to the Case School of Engineering in 2017 from Clemson University, where she earned her doctorate in chemical engineering. She’s one of 75 scientists nationally chosen for the DOE’s Early Career Research Program.

In its 11th year, the program is designed to bolster American science by supporting exceptional researchers early in their careers, when many scientists do their most formative work. Her award, announced in June, is worth at least $150,000 a year for five years to cover salary and research expenses.

“We’re excited about it because it will allow our lab to continue to do this work and improve on it by bringing on more student researchers,” Duval said. “It also builds on our existing collaborations with Argonne National Laboratory.”

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