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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

SU Alum Earns Marie Curie Fellowship at Cambridge

Michael Taylor (left)SALISBURY, MD---Since discovering a passion for research as an undergraduate at Salisbury University, alumnus Michael Taylor has gone on to earn a patent, a postdoctoral position at the renowned University of Cambridge in England and, now, a prestigious fellowship from the European Commission.

The 32-year-old Salisbury native received a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, a research funding initiative of the European Union’s governing body. Valued at some $240,000, the award is designed to attract researchers who live outside the E.U. to come work at a facility within the E.U.

Marie Curi Actions“This is an important source of funding as it allows for a transfer of scientific knowledge and expertise between nations and encourages collaboration that otherwise would not be possible,” Taylor said. He has been at Cambridge since 2012 and lives in the small town of Ely with his wife, Glory. 

His synthetic organic chemistry research focuses on the development of new chemical reactions that can occur in biological settings, such as inside living organisms, without interfering with biological processes.

“This is a considerable challenge,” Taylor said, as “biological systems are incredibly complex. There are only a handful of reactions that can achieve this, so we need more.” He called such reactions “invaluable” to scientists’ tool-kits, as they allow for probing “the way biological machinery works in exquisite detail” and have enabled the development of next-generation cancer therapeutics. 

Previously, while pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Delaware, Taylor was part of a multi-institutional collaboration that earned a patent for the development of a new method of P.E.T. imaging of tumors using radioactive fluorine. 

The patent discloses a strategy for making chemical probes containing radioactive fluorine using a reaction that is essentially instantaneous, which is what Taylor had a role in developing.  The probes are designed to know how to seek out cancerous tumors and ignore every other type of cell found in the body, he explained.

“Radioactive fluorine is ideal for tumor imaging because it can produce high resolution images with minimal harmful side effects, but is challenging to work with because once generated, you only have a few hours to use it before it decays,” he said. 

Taylor earned his B.S. in chemistry at SU in 2006. He was a member of the Thomas E. Bellavance Honors Program and, for his first two years, the men’s lacrosse team. He credits SU’s small chemistry department with providing opportunities for faculty mentorship and to form close, life-long friendships with other students. 

“My experience at SU was critical for me ending up where I am now,” he said. “Really, it was the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research that was the key. I planned to get a pharmacy degree, but once I had the chance to work in a lab, I caught the research bug. Who knows where I would be if that hadn’t happened.”

Taylor said his undergraduate advisor sparked his enthusiasm for chemistry research. “I think it’s a combination of exploring the unknown, creative thinking and asking challenging questions that you don’t know the answer to,” he said.  “I hope to continue to do work that will be beneficial to society, whether it’s through teaching or developing an active research plan.”

In addition to his research at one of the world’s oldest universities, Taylor said he and Glory (whom he met at the wedding of a good friend from SU) have been enjoying the U.K. They have been shown “phenomenal hospitality” and plan to stay until 2016. 

“We enjoy how much easier it is to have an active lifestyle by relying on public transportation or walking and cycling to get where we want to go than in the states,” he said. “Great Britain is a beautiful country. I have a very amateurish interest in history, and it seems like everywhere you go, there is some important bit of history to experience, much of which played a role in our own.”

Michael & Glory TaylorHe added:  “Delmarva and the east section of Cambridgeshire (where Cambridge is located) have one distinct thing in common:  they both are flat as a board and have plenty of marshland!”    

Taylor graduated from James M. Bennett High in 2001.  “I decided to attend SU because of the opportunity to play for a top-tier lacrosse team and also get a good education,” he said.  His parents, David and Susan Taylor of Eden, also attended SU.  His father, a native of Princess Anne, received his master’s in psychology from SU in 1975, and his mother, a native of Cambridge, MD, received her nursing degree in 1995. 

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions program is named after the double Nobel Prize winning Polish-French scientist famed for her work on radioactivity. It is managed by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture.

Pictured, from left, is Taylor with his professor, Matt Gaunt.  Also pictured is Taylor and his wife in the village of Duffield in Derbyshire, England.

For more information, call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU website at www.salisbury.edu.


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