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Headshot of Pengda Liu.
UNC Lineberger’s Pengda Liu, PhD.

UNC Lineberger’s Pengda Liu, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine, is one of five UNC faculty members being honored with the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement.

The recipients, who each received an $8,000 prize, presented 15-minute talks about their research on Oct. 24 as part of University Research Week. They will be formally recognized during the Nov. 3 Faculty Council Meeting.

The late Phillip Hettleman, a member of the Carolina class of 1921, and his wife Ruth established their prestigious named award in 1986 to recognize the achievements of outstanding junior faculty who exemplify groundbreaking and innovative research along with future career promise.

“I am deeply honored and thrilled to receive this prestigious award,” Liu said. “This award holds significant meaning for me, serving as more than just recognition for our past research endeavors aimed at enhancing our comprehension and treatment of cancer. It also stands as a powerful catalyst, inspiring us to harness our expertise for continued contributions in cancer research alongside our esteemed colleagues at UNC.”

Liu’s research is focused on cancer biology and the molecular mechanisms underlying aberrant cell signaling events in human cancer. His highly productive lab brings together bioengineering expertise with high-tech biochemistry, cell biology and genetics with the goal of developing new anti-cancer therapies.

In her nomination letter for Liu, Jean Cook, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, wrote, “Liu has made seminal discoveries, and his research has great promise for future clinical advances. We believe that he represents the best in research, mentoring, teaching, and service that the School of Medicine has to offer.”

Liu earned his doctoral degree from East Carolina University and completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard University. His postdoctoral work was published in high-impact journals, including Nature, Cancer Discovery, Nature Cell Biology and Molecular Cell. Liu has published 24 original research articles, seven review articles and one book chapter, and filed two patents, in his seven years at UNC.

In addition to Liu, the other Hettleman Prizes recipients are Yaiza Canzani, PhD associate professor of mathematics, UNC College of Arts and Sciences; Brian Conlon, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, UNC School of Medicine; Angel Hsu, PhD, assistant professor of Public Policy, UNC College of Arts and Sciences; and Alex Worsnip, PhD, associate professor of philosophy, UNC College of Arts and Sciences.