Assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas, Kartik Balachandran, has received a $500,000 Faculty Early Career Development Program award from the National Science Foundation to further his research in heart valve disease.
Balachandran's research focuses on understanding the multi-scale relationship between structure, architecture and mechanics related to the biological behavior of cells and tissues in disease processes.
The award will allow him to study the role mechanical forces and cell shape play in dictating endothelial-mesenchymal transformation, a process involved in fetal development and also in diseases such as heart valve disease and cancer.
Balachandran will focus on the role of endothelial-mesenchymal transformation in causing heart valve pathologies, and insights from this project are expected to yield new therapeutic strategies to treat valve disease.
The award will also support an educational component centered on exposing underrepresented high-school seniors to multidisciplinary engineering research at a week-long summer camp. The camp will integrate theory and practice of mechano-biology and artificial tissue fabrication and will increase student awareness and interest in science and engineering.
Faculty Early Career Development Program, or CAREER, grants are among the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards for junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education and integration of both within the context of their institution's mission. Research activities supported by CAREER awards build the foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.