Provost distinguished promotion award earned by materials scholar

6/10/2024 Jackson Brunner

Written by Jackson Brunner

For accomplishments University of Illinois Provost John Coleman called “truly exceptional”, Materials Science and Engineering Professor Cecilia Leal has been awarded the 2024 Distinguished Promotion Award. As a result of this honor, she will receive $3,000 in scholarly support and become a full professor in November 2024, pending Board of Trustees Approval. 

Cecilia Leal
Cecilia Leal

“Your dossier was recommended to me for special recognition based on the scope, quality and impact of your scholarship, teaching and service,” Coleman said in a May letter to Leal. “Your accomplishments stood out as particularly notable in a context where virtually all cases reviewed were excellent.”

Leal has been part of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering since 2012. The Leal lab focuses on investigating the self-organization of biomolecular systems to generate new materials that advance therapy and technology. Her work has made a major difference in designing next generation lipid nanoparticles for gene and drug delivery. In addition, her research also advances fundamental knowledge of phase behavior and interactions among lipids, peptides and nucleic acids using robust characterization tools, including Small Angle X-ray Scattering, Optical, and Cryogenic Electron Microscopy. Leal has received multiple honors, including a most recent University Scholar honor in 2023. She earned the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research for Associate (2021) and Assistant (2018) Professor, the 2019 Provost Distinguished Promotion Award, the 2016 NIH New Innovator Award, and the 2016 NSF CAREER Award, to name just a few certifications.  

There were 12 total people who received the 2024 Distinguished Promotion Award. Four others also earned honors that will make them full professors.  

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This story was published June 10, 2024.