We are pleased to announce that Dr. Gregory Hudalla has received a 2015 National Science Foundation Career Award!
The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.
Hudalla and his team are creating biomaterials that modulate the activity of galectins, a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins that direct cell behavior in various normal and pathological processes, including development, angiogenesis, immunity, cancer, and viral infection. This NSF Career award supports research to create biomaterials that can be tailored to recognize a specific galectin, rather than the entire family, because different galectins can have unique or opposing roles within a given biological process. Tailoring biomaterial galectin-binding specificity will require knowledge of the “sugar code” relating galectin-carbohydrate binding. Studying galectin interactions with natural glycoproteins provides insights into the galectin sugar code, however, elucidating fine details of galectin-binding specificity is hindered by the poorly defined carbohydrate composition of natural glycoproteins and the inability to precisely tailor their carbohydrate content. Thus, Hudalla and his team are creating biomaterials with well-defined carbohydrate composition as synthetic glycoprotein mimics to probe galectin-carbohydrate binding relationships in greater detail. To achieve this goal, their work merges building blocks that spontaneously self-assemble with bio-inspired enzymatic synthesis to prepare biomaterials in which the type and concentration of integrated carbohydrates can be easily and precisely tailored. Thus, this platform will provide a richer understanding of the galectin sugar code, while also establishing guidelines for the design of biomaterials that can modulate the activity of a specific galectin according to an intended therapeutic application.
In conjunction with these research efforts, Hudalla is involved in various outreach efforts that provide middle school, high school, and undergraduate students with hands-on engineering experiences to stimulate interest in research and prepare them for STEM careers. Toward this end, this Career award will support continued involvement with established UF programs that engage high school and undergraduate students in scientific research, enable design and implementation of hands-on teaching modules that introduce middle school students to the role of engineering in addressing human health challenges, and support an industry co-op for UF Biomedical Engineering graduate students. Together, these initiatives serve to prepare students for success in STEM careers by fostering confidence in identifying problems, conducting research to address problems, and communicating research findings to scientists and non-scientists alike.
Congratulations, Dr. Hudalla!