Skip to main content

University of Missouri-Columbia professor awarded President's Award for Early Career Excellence

Long Title
University of Missouri-Columbia professor awarded President's Award for Early Career Excellence

Award recognizes faculty who exhibit exceptional promise as demonstrated through scholarship, research or creativity

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri System Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Research and Economic Development Hank Foley today awarded the first of ten UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2015 to Gavin King, associate professor of physics and biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  

Foley — in front of faculty gathered for a weekly physics colloquium — surprised King with the President’s Award for Early Career Excellence, which includes a $5,000 award. The award recognizes faculty who exhibit exceptional promise within their first seven years with the university as demonstrated through scholarship, research or creativity.

King joined the MU faculty in 2009 and quickly became an international leader in the field of single molecule biophysics, a field that explores how individual protein molecules behave on the surface of the cells they inhabit. These behaviors create channels that let substances such as pharmaceuticals pass in and out through the membranes that hold cells together.

King’s laboratory is equipped with a self-modified atomic force microscope (AFM) unlike any in the world. Building on prior AFM technology, he developed a second generation optically-stabilized AFM that creates three-dimensional imaging. As a result of his creation of the world’s first 3-D AFM, he was awarded a 2014 Innovation Award by the Microscopy Society of America.

“Dr. King has established a robust and dynamic research program which is evidenced by his peer-reviewed publications, his external funding, interdisciplinary collaborations, patent applications, and recent recognition for innovation from the microscopy community,” wrote one nominator.

At MU, King's research has been supported by six grants, totaling over $1.1 million in research funding. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and of the very prestigious and competitive Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface. He has also been issued seven U.S. patents.

“Dr. King is an innovative and creative young scientist who, at this early stage of his career, has already made important contributions to expanding the ability of interdisciplinary work combining physics and biology to investigate the molecules of life,” another nominator wrote.

Outside of the lab, King has collaborated with MU faculty from the physics, education and biochemistry departments on a week-long summer camp program, “Biophysics and Your Body,” for middle school students. The camp’s curriculum has been turned into a series of five lesson plans that teachers can incorporate into their classes. King also co-chaired an MU program that offers graduate-level instruction to scientists on how to better engage the public about the research they do.

The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university.King will be formally recognized by UM System President Tim Wolfe during an awards celebration to be held June 25.

Gavin King, Hank Foley

Hank Foley, executive vice president for academic affairs, research and economic development, presents a check for $5,000 to Dr. Gavin King, recipient of the UM President's Award for Early Career Excellence.


Reviewed 2015-06-01