Biomedical engineering researcher receives NSF Early Career award

A Vanderbilt biomedical engineering researcher has received a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation.


Melissa Skala, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is a pioneering researcher in the development of optical imaging, optical spectroscopy and nanotechnology for cancer diagnosis and therapy. The $509,000, five-year award begins May 1, 2016.

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.

Skala is the second Vanderbilt engineering faculty member to receive such an award this year. John Wilson, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has received a NSF Faculty Early Career Development award.

Skala’s proposed research is centered on new imaging technologies and analytical models to determine an optimal patient-tailored cancer treatment strategy before treatment is given. The objective is to accurately measure early drug response and cellular metabolism in primary 3D tumor organoids with new microscopy technologies.

The proposed studies also will accelerate meaningful pre-clinical drug development with accurate high-throughput ex vivo screens of multiple drugs and drug combinations. New tools will be developed for high-throughput imaging of metabolism in individual cells in 3D, and new computational models will quantify metabolic flux within cells. These tools will be broadly impactful for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and other diseases with abnormal metabolism.

Read more: Improving breast cancer chemo by testing tumors in a dish October 28, 2014

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering