Professors Justin Khoury, Tom Lubensky and Andrea Liu receive Kaufmann New Initiative Research Grants

Upenn researchers will receive five of the 10 grants being awarded this year by the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, part of The Pittsburgh Foundation, which supports cutting-edge scientific research in chemistry, biology and physics at institutions across Pennsylvania.

Hailing from Penn’s School of Arts & SciencesSchool of Engineering and Applied Science andPerelman School of Medicine, the researchers won awards in two categories. New Investigator Research grants entail $150,000 for two years, while New Initiative Research grants are $300,000 for two years.

Awardees in the New Initiative Research category include: 

Justin Khoury, associate professor, and Tom Lubensky, the Christopher H. Brown Distinguished Professor of Physics, both in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, for research on “New approach to dark matter.” Khoury and Lubensky will develop a novel cosmological framework in which dark matter is a superfluid. If this framework is correct, the sound waves associated with the superfluid would affect the orbital motion of stars and gas in galaxies, thereby explaining a number of observational puzzles that have emerged in recent years.

Andrea Liu, the Hepburn Professor of Physics, Benjamin Prosser, assistant professor in Medicine’sDepartment of Physiology and Dennis Discher, the Robert D. Bent Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, for research on “Mechanical signaling in early hearts: theory and experiment.” The research team will test their theoretical idea that in the embryonic heart, cells use mechanical, not electrical, signals to coordinate their contraction in order to pump blood. One prediction is that the embryonic heart starts beating once the tissue, which stiffens as it matures, becomes just stiff enough to support mechanical signaling. Liu and Discher are examining similar stiffening mechanisms and their impact on cancer development in the new NIH-supported Physical Science Oncology at Penn.

To read more about the awardees in other categories, visit