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Dr. Ellen Hyeran Kang, an assistant professor at NSTC and Physics Department, has won NSF CAREER award. Kang’s project, “Actin cytoskeleton biomechanics and mechanobiology in complex cellular environments” will receive $500k of funding for five years.

The self-assembly of an essential protein actin drives many important cellular processes, which take place in a crowded and confined cytoplasm. Changes in actin mechanics and structure taking place in response to environmental stresses such as crowding, are closely linked to cell physiology and disease states. Dr. Kang and her research team will incorporate molecular biophysics and nanoscale tools to identify molecular mechanisms by which varying intracellular environments modulate the conformations, mechanics, and mechanosensing of actin cytoskeleton. The knowledge gained from this project will impact a broad range of applications in multiple scientific fields including cell physiology and aging.

Integration of the research findings to a uniquely designed biophysics pedagogy will benefit undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Through this project, Dr. Kang will recruit and train underrepresented minority students at UCF as well as from Valencia College, in addition to mentoring young female scientists to foster their interests and careers in STEM for a more diverse scientific workforce.

Related article: UCF 1st in Florida, 3rd Nationally for Coveted National Science Foundation CAREER Grants