Three SoE Faculty Members Receive NSF CAREER Awards

In the latest round of National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards, three School of Engineering professors were recognized for their innovation research and will serve as principal investigators on funded research projects.

The prestigious NSF CAREER program fosters the career development of outstanding junior faculty, combining the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense.  



Assistant Professor Shishir Chundawat (CBE): “Force Spectroscopy Enabled Multivalent Glycan-binding Protein Engineering”

The goal of this project is to understand the structure-function relationships driving protein binding to glycans and to unravel the molecular forces relevant to protein-glycan binding interactions. To achieve this goal, a novel acoustic force spectroscopy (AFS) toolkit will be developed that is capable of assaying multiple glycan-protein interactions simultaneously. Carbohydrate binding modules (CBM) will be used to develop and validate the technique. AFS will allow for much higher throughput than traditional techniques and enable probing physiologically-relevant forces at the single-molecule level.

“The interactions between glycans and proteins on the surface of cells are fundamental to how cells behave and respond to their environment,” says Chundawat. “The focus of this project is to probe how glycans bind to proteins and explore structure-function relationships to ultimately develop a novel protein engineering toolkit. The insights gained from this work will aid in the development of enzymes for cheaper biofuels and better biological drugs that can prevent infections.” READ MORE>>

Assistant Professor Nicole Fahrenfeld (CEE): “Controls on the Host and Transfer of Hazardous Genes”

The goal of this project is to apply new techniques to monitor antibiotic resistant (AR) microbes in different environmental settings. This information will be used to track the transmission of antibiotic resistance through the environment. 

According to Fahrenfeld, the link between human, animal, and environmental health (One Health) is exemplified by one of the most pressing public health issues: antibiotic resistance. Environmental hot spots of antibiotic resistance have been identified using techniques that do not identify the genetic context of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs).

“Failure to understand the microbial ecology and mechanisms driving the proliferation of ARGs in the environment limits our ability to characterize the hazard posted by these genes and prevents the development of engineering solutions to limit the spread of antibiotic resistant infectious disease,” she says. READ MORE>>

Assistant Professor Mehdi Javanmard (ECE): “Reconfigurable Electro-Fluidic Prescriptions (REFRx): Data-Driven Biosensors for Detection and Treatment of Multidrug-Resistant Cancers”

The goal of this project is to develop an all-electronic platform that can rapidly identify drug resistant cancer cells in tumors and prescribe a course of treatment for the patient that minimizes the chance of cancer recurrence. The process will include both screening cancer patients for drug resistance and identifying the key molecular players involved for selecting optimal cancer treatment drugs.

According to Javanmard, drug resistance is one of the greatest impediments to treating both cancer and infectious disease and has been identified as one of the greatest public health threats over the next several decades.

“Treatment of multi-drug resistance in cancer is difficult using static analysis platforms because of the rapid ability of tumor sub-clones to mutate and become insusceptible to a chemotherapeutic drug,” he says. READ MORE>>