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Honors and Awards

Julius Lucks Named Guggenheim Fellow

Lucks is one of two Northwestern faculty members to earn esteemed honor in 2023

Northwestern Engineering’s Julius Lucks is one of the two University faculty members recently named 2023 Guggenheim Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 

Lucks is a professor and the associate chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering, and co-director of the Northwestern Center for Synthetic Biology.

A focal point of Lucks’ research is measuring and characterizing the folding properties of RNA, a fundamental component of all living systems with many important functions. Studies in Lucks’ lab have furthered scientific understanding of the molecular principles that enable biological systems to sense and adapt to changing environments, creating insights that have allowed them to engineer these systems in ways that benefit humanity. 

Lucks’ work has created some of the first movies of how RNAs fold inside cells, revealing how RNAs can be engineered for on-demand diagnostic technologies that can detect water contaminants and pathogens. Lucks will use his Guggenheim Fellowship to make movies of the RNA ‘multiverse’ — collections of RNAs that all perform the same function but in different ways — opening new dimensions to understanding life’s most central molecule.

“I am humbled and honored by the recognition of the Guggenheim Foundation. In an era where it is increasingly rare to be supported to pursue one’s most bold, ambitious, and risky ideas, the Guggenheim Foundation is providing a critical path to enable us to go after our passions,” Lucks said. “With this support, I am incredibly excited to add new dimensions to our understanding of RNA, so that we may use that understanding to create RNA biotechnologies that address some of society’s biggest challenges.”

Julius Lucks

Also named was Amy Stanley, the Wayne V. Jones II Research Professor in the Department of History and the director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

This year, the Foundation awarded 171 fellowships to American and Canadian scientists, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and writers and artists selected from a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants. The fellows were appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted nearly $400 million to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies and recipients of many internationally recognized honors.

“Like Emerson, I believe that fullness in life comes from following our calling,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation and 1985 Fellow in Poetry. “The new class of fellows has followed their calling to enhance all of our lives, to provide greater human knowledge and deeper understanding. We’re lucky to look to them to bring us into the future.”