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Nicholas Castaneda in Dr. Ellen Kang’s group won the Chateaubriand Fellowship that provides the opportunity for doctoral students in the United States to conduct Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Health research in France.

Importantly, the Fellowship promotes the progression of scientific knowledge through collaboration and joint projects with professors and universities, including various partnerships such as with the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). The awarded fellowship will provide Nicholas with the opportunity for a 5 month stay in France to continue conducting his doctoral research.

The focus of this research will be on determining the impact of varying intracellular environments on cytoskeletal filament structure and mechanics. Specifically, we will model the effects of intracellular media by use of various macromolecular crowding agents. Then, with the use of high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) we will demonstrate, in real-time, the dynamic mechanisms risen by crowding effects on actin filaments and the subsequent changes to filament helical pitch and Young’s modulus.

The Chateaubriand Fellowship research is in collaboration with Dr. Michael Molinari’s lab at the University of Bordeaux in France. This partnership will allow access to the use of novel instruments and techniques with which we can demonstrate the unexplored nanoscale impact of crowded environments on actin cytoskeleton.

Nicholas is currently a PhD student in Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and a former graduate in Nanotechnology MS program.