BME faculty member receives NSF CAREER award

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering W. David Merryman has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development grant.

According to the National Science Foundation, CAREER awards support exceptionally promising college and university junior faculty who are committed to the integration of research and education and are likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Merryman’s research explores changes in cell biology due to mechanical stretching. The five-year award – Deconvoluting Fibroblast Mechanobiology – supports Merryman’s effort to develop a novel system for stretching cultured fibroblasts – mimicking growth, injury and disease – while assessing their shape and architecture using atomic force nanoscale and fluorescence microscopes.

Fibroblasts are the most common type of cells found in connective tissue. Fibroblasts secrete collagen proteins that are used to maintain a structural framework for many fibrous tissues such as muscle, cartilage and bone. They also play an important role in healing wounds.

The impact of the research supported by the NSF award includes innovations for the field of tissue engineering by building new tissues in the laboratory or by new approaches to speed wound healing or to slow chronic fibrotic diseases such as those affecting the lungs, kidneys, eyes, heart, liver and skin.

Merryman, who joined the biomedical engineering department in 2009, will use part of the grant to create interactive videos for middle and high school students that will incorporate challenges in biology, chemistry, medicine and engineering to demonstrate how engineers innovatively solve complex problems, often at the interface between these fields.