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Biology Professor Earns Prestigious NSF CAREER Grant

June 15, 2022

Devaleena Pradhan poses for a photo with Bluebanded goby fish in her lab.
Idaho State University's Devaleena Pradhan poses for a photo with Bluebanded goby fish in her lab.

An Idaho State University researcher is taking home one of the National Science Foundation’s most sought-after awards.

Recently,  the NSF announced that Devaleena Pradhan, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, is one of the 2022 recipients of their Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. The grants are awarded “in support of early-career faculty 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.” Pradhan will receive $867,632 over five years to further her research on the Bluebanded goby, a fish that lives in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The small fish can rapidly switch sexes in response to changes in their environment. 

“Bluebanded gobies are remarkable because they can naturally change sex during adulthood, and their entire body rewires itself to be the opposite sex,” said Pradhan. “The research will help us find out which hormones help modify behavior such as aggression, courtship, and parenting due to sudden changes and how those hormones can affect gene expression and protein function in the future. Hormones involved in these dramatic processes are very similar in all vertebrate animals - including humans.” 

“This award will not only support Pradhan's research but will also provide numerous opportunities for students to work on cutting-edge research projects with her as their mentor,” said Janet Loxterman, Professor and Biological Sciences Department Chair. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Pradhan as a member of our department.”

Receiving the CAREER grant is the culmination of over a decade of work for Pradhan that started while she was working on her Ph.D. at Georgia State University in Atlanta. 

“I knew what I wanted to write for my CAREER grant proposal and how I wanted to write it, but I needed all the dots to connect: preliminary data generated by my current students and demonstrating we have the potential to carry out a research program for the next 10 to 15 years,” Pradhan said. “Thank you to everyone who supported this project through its many phases.”

Pradhan plans to allocate a portion of her funding to training the next generation of scientists through summer research opportunities. She also aims to increase the number of Native American students majoring in one of the sciences at ISU by hosting biology open houses for youth and their parents, providing information on internship opportunities, and more. 

“One thread that ties together the four countries I have lived in is that indigenous and native people are underrepresented in STEM fields,” Pradhan said. “I am determined to do what I can to help increase the number of native and indigenous students who seek a STEM degree at ISU. The education program component of the CAREER grant is a mechanism that will help me dedicate time and resources to this important endeavor.”

“An NSF CAREER Award to Dr. Pradhan is an accomplishment that the College of Science and Engineering and all of ISU can take great pride in,” said Scott Snyder, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “NSF CAREER Awards are among the most prestigious grants that NSF provides and are given to a very select group of the nation's best early-career scientists and engineers. Dr. Pradhan is a shining example of the world-class faculty who call ISU home.”

Previously, ISU Geosciences Professor Sarah Godsey received an NSF CAREER Award in 2017.


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