Chelsea Magin, Assistant Professor of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, Departments of Medicine and Bioengineering at CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, has been named a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program Award Winner. The NSF CAREER Program is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through integration of outstanding research and excellent education.
This grant will enable Magin and her laboratory to develop biomaterials and engineering strategies to better model the cellular processes that cause fibrosis, a progressive and incurable disease that results in over one-third of global mortalities annually. This proposal focuses on designing and synthesizing a new class of biomaterials to conduct dynamic studies of fibroblast mechanobiology, not currently possible in traditional models of fibrosis, to understand the fibroblast-matrix interactions that contribute to disease progression over time. Magin’s laboratory will create biomaterials that combine phototunable synthetic hydrogel materials, which provide control over mechanical properties, with extracellular matrix proteins from healthy or fibrotic lung tissue to impart biological activity. Unlike conventional hydrogels, her system contains two chemical crosslinking mechanisms that stiffen or soften the material using cell-friendly wavelengths of light. These features allow her lab to recreate fibrotic tissue architecture in vitro while decoupling pathological alterations in tissue composition and stiffness, to perform experiments that have not been possible in traditional models of fibrosis. The technology developed in this proposal will enable interdisciplinary research, including collaborators domestic and international in engineering (CU Denver, CU Anschutz Medical Campus, and CU Boulder) and medicine (CU Anschutz Medical Campus, National Jewish Health, Lund University Sweden, University of Vermont), to ultimately identify new targets for life-saving treatment of chronic fibrotic diseases.
To achieve this goal, it is critical to further cultivate an inclusive and globally competitive STEM workforce. Magin has assembled a team of collaborators in academia and industry, including Couragion Corporation, MindSpark Learning, and the Colorado Bioscience Institute, to create and teach a unique, translational curriculum. Spanning middle to graduate school, this program will be intentionally designed to expose educators and students to biotechnology concepts, disseminate the results of the proposed research, and train a diverse workforce in biomedical research for STEM career pathways. The curriculum, tools, and strategies developed locally are high-impact, modular, and easily adapted for implementation in other universities and school districts around the world.
At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.