Researchers at UC Merced have won a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study how biological matter such as proteins or cells come together to perform specific tasks, effectively behaving as machines.
The research – funded over five years through the NSF’s Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology program – could help researchers design and develop innovations ranging from designer cells and tissue to novel diagnostic and therapeutic devices.
The grant allows UC Merced researchers to create the new CREST Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines, which brings together more than a dozen faculty members from multiple units across campus, including bioengineering, physics, chemistry and chemical biology, materials science and engineering.
The CCBM also will offer training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, including team-based research during the school year, summer internships with other institutions, on-campus research internship opportunities for California State University students, and outreach programs directed at local high schools. The CCBM also will host an entrepreneurial scholars program in which collaborations will lead to commercialization opportunities for students’ research.
Bioengineering professor Victor Muñoz, with the School of Engineering, and physics professor Ajay Gopinathan, with the School of Natural Sciences, will serve as co-directors of the center. Professors Kara McCloskey and Sayantani Ghosh will lead the graduate and undergraduate education and outreach efforts, respectively.
Muñoz and Gopinathan won the highly competitive grant on their first application.
“This award is another milestone in the development of UC Merced, and is the third multimillion-dollar award the campus has received this year,” said Mark Matsumoto, dean of the School of Engineering.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, who works to increase the NSF investment in UC Merced research, offered his congratulations.
“This grant funding from the National Science Foundation further proves that UC Merced is on its way to becoming one of the top research universities in the country,” Costa said.
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