Professor Receives NSF CAREER Award for Cell Biophysical Properties Research and Educational Activities
By Matthew Chin
The NSF CAREER award is the organization’s most significant award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Di Carlo is the fifth UCLA Engineering faculty member to receive an NSF CAREER Award in the 2011-12 academic year. The others are: Danijela Cabric, Lara Dolecek and Benjamin Williams, all assistant professors of electrical engineering; and Alexander Sherstov, assistant professor of computer science.
Di Carlo’s award funds research to uncover the molecular changes responsible for mechanical property differences measured with his deformability cytometer device. Variations in a cell’s internal structure can provide a lot of information about a cell’s state of activity, and can be indicative of diseases, such as cancer. This method is also less expensive and faster than current methods of cell analysis, which involve expensive chemical tags.
Also, the award will fund the integration of educational activities associated with the research, including working with UCLA Engineering’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED), and offering summer research internships to reach financially disadvantaged undergraduate students. Additionally, the award will fund efforts to make this information more widely available to the scientific and medical communities, as well as engaging the public through a planned series of videos hosted on YouTube.
Di Carlo is the director of the Microfluidic Biotechnology Laboratory, leading research that exploits unique physics, microenvironment control, and the potential for automation associated with miniaturized systems for applications in basic biology, medical diagnostics, and cellular engineering.
He has received several prestigious awards for young faculty including a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award; the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Award; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award; and a Coulter Translational Research Award.