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Carola Wenk
Carola Wenk
(Photo by Mark McClendon)

UTSA computer-sci professor earns $400K NSF award

By Kris Rodriguez
Public Affairs Specialist

(May 31, 2007)--Carola Wenk, UTSA assistant professor of computer science, was awarded a five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study geometric shape handling in theory and practice.

The CAREER award is NSF's most prestigious honor for junior faculty members and supports exceptionally promising college and university faculty members committed to the integration of research and education. Wenk is the only junior faculty member in the UTSA College of Sciences with a current NSF CAREER Award.

Wenk, who joined UTSA in 2004, is bridging the gap between theoretical research and applications by integrating theoretical algorithms research with real-world applications such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), car navigation systems and computational proteomics. In the interdisciplinary field of computational biology, computational proteomics applies the techniques of computer science, applied mathematics and statistics to the large-scale study of proteins, particularly their structures and functions.

In Greece last summer, Wenk used data from GPS receivers in school buses and taxis to develop real-time traffic estimation and prediction systems.

"I would like to apply similar technology here in San Antonio and maintain a database for each road segment to determine current travel situations using GPS receivers in cars traveling all over this area," said Wenk.

Additionally, the CAREER award could help create advancements in the medical industry as Wenk and her students develop novel computational tools to analyze two-dimensional electrophoresis gels. The gels provide two-dimensional images that can help determine the composition of protein samples benefiting the development of pharmaceutical products.

"This medical imaging technology could help doctors examine a medically processed sample for drops in protein levels and determine whether a certain illness was present," said Wenk.

Wenk received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in math and computer science from Free University of Berlin and completed her postdoctoral research at The University of Arizona in Tucson.

This month, she also received UTSA's 2007 President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Research Achievement for Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty.

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