Mar 26, 2013 | Atlanta, GA
Mark Styczynski, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, has been awarded the Early Faculty Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research into into developing a versatile, widely applicable approach to engineering cells to produce valuable products such as biofuels or pharmaceuticals.
The CAREER Program offers NSF’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 within the context of their organization’s mission. Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.
Styczynski, who is the 15th CAREER Award recipient in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, says that his project, “An Integrated, Metabolomics-based Method for Metabolic Engineering,” will use measurement of biochemical intermediates of cellular metabolism, or metabolites, to identify improved routes to engineer cells that can yield valuable products.
“While people routinely use the measurement of one or a few metabolites to drive metabolic engineering, surprisingly no one has developed an effective approach to use measurements of many metabolites from across all of metabolism, called ‘metabolomics,’ for this purpose,” Styczynski says. “We will take this metabolomics data and combine it with mathematical models of metabolism, as well as machine learning, to establish a process where alternating experimental and computational iterations will enable us to engineer cells more effectively.”
As part of the CAREER Award, Styczynski received a grant, which will be used to synthesize his current research with metabolic goals in order to tackle the larger problems in biotechnology.
“One of the direct impacts of the grant will be enabling a biofuels-oriented metabolic engineering application of the approach we will develop,” Styczynski says. “More broadly, this will enable us to expand the scope of what can be produced biologically rather than chemically, which would have significant industrial and environmental impacts.”
While the award helps aid future research, Styczynski says it will also support his collaborations with elementary, middle, and high schools, including Lambert High School in Forsyth County, Ga.
The school is starting a team for the International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation’s Synthetic Biology competition, and the award will provide them with critical supplies over the next five years, with the hope of establishing an active, successful team. “Without this award, those students might struggle for access to resources for their projects,” he says.