Julia Kubanek is one of the country's top young scientists—just ask the White House. In 2004, Kubanek was recognized with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the nation's highest honor for professionals at the outset of their research careers.
Much of Kubanek's marine research has potential pharmaceutical applications. One area involves investigating the chemical signals and defenses aquatic plants and animals use to protect themselves against predators and disease. While studying disease resistance in seaweeds Kubanek and her team discovered the plants protect themselves with a naturally occurring antibiotic that may also have cancer-fighting properties.
Kubanek is also studying the chemical defenses of phytoplankton, microscopic marine plants, and how some species protect themselves from being eaten by their animal cousins, zooplankton. The research won Kubanek a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2002.
In other research, Kubanek, in collaboration with other scientists and Tech and Georgia State, is studying the sex pheromones that marine animals use to recognize and attract mates. She is also examining the pheromones that microscopic animals, known as rotifers, use to transform from an asexual to a sexual life cycle.
Kubanek received her bachelor's degree from Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1991 and her doctorate from the University of British Columbia in 1998. She currently has a joint appointment as associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biology and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.