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Assistant Professor, Susan Daniel receives the NSF Career Award

Friday, March 2, 2012

Assistant Professor, Susan Daniel

This NSF CAREER award by the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering program supports a research and education program focused on discovering the function of species that comprise cell membrane microdomains and promoting the advancement of women in STEM disciplines through professional development. Membrane species are essential for regulating myriad cellular processes and vital to proper function of bioanalytical assays and sensors that employ these species as transducer elements. Yet our understanding of the links between protein function and the impact of the local membrane environment of that protein on its function is lacking. In this work, we will employ a novel microfluidic device comprised of patterned, two-phase co-existent membranes to assess biomolecule partitioning into different membrane phases; identify the stimuli that trigger changes in partitioning; and quantify how partitioning impacts, and possibly regulates, protein function. Knowing how protein function depends on the local membrane composition is vital to understanding membrane biology and appreciating how the membrane environment impacts drug-protein interactions is necessary for assessing therapeutic efficacy in mitigating diseases such as Diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and infertility, where changes in cell membrane composition are implicated in the disease manifestation. Thus the broader impacts of this research are filling a technological gap in membrane proteomic research that will be used to study how partitioning depends on membrane properties and external stimuli (chemical, biological, environmental) to ultimately monitor direct interactions between species in heterogeneous membranes and determine protein activity changes after interaction. 

Coincident to the research plan, educational efforts on coaching graduate and post doctoral women to become successful leaders and educators will be implemented through a new multi-layered professional development program. The education plan will build leadership skills and educational competency through peer mentoring, teaching leadership skills through outreach programs, and career networking workshops. The broader impacts of this education plan are filling the gap between undergraduate advancement programs and professional development programs for young female professionals in the STEM disciplines; creating a model for female graduate student education that combines technical education in engineering with leadership and management skills to yield well-rounded, technically competent graduates; and ultimately increasing the number of women choosing advanced technical careers after graduate school.

Please help us congratulate Susan on her recent accomplishment. More information on the award can be found at:

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