Congratulations to University of Utah nuclear engineering assistant professor Tara Mastren, who was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Award, given this year to 83 scientists to support their current research projects. She will receive a total of $750,000 over five years.

Her research will focus on the development of better radionuclide generator systems that provide short-lived alpha emitting radionuclides for the use in cancer therapies. Targeted alpha therapy (TAT) has grown in recent years as a method for treating cancer. IN TAT the alpha emitting radionuclide is attached to a molecule that acts as a mailman delivering the dose directly to the diseased cancer cells while bypassing healthy cells. The power of alpha decay for cancer therapy lies in the short range of the emitted alpha particle allowing for maximum damage to targeted cancer cells with minimum damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

“This work seeks to develop methods to increase the supply of these valuable radionuclides allowing for more patients to have access to targeted alpha therapy for cancer treatment,” she said.

Mastren received her bachelor’s in chemistry from Maryville University in St. Louis and a doctorate degree in nuclear and radiochemistry from Washington University in St Louis.

She joined the University of Utah as an assistant professor in the U’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2018 where she is in the Nuclear Engineering Program.

She is a member of both the Society of Nuclear Medicine and the American Chemical Society, where she is the spring conference program chair of the ACS Nuclear Division.

The DOE Early Career Research Program, which is now in its 12th year, is designed to “bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.”


Story by Vincent Horiuchi, College of Engineering