April 22, 2021
The award—the NSF’s most prestigious recognition for early-career faculty members—“embodies NSF’s commitment to encourage faculty and academic institutions to value and support the integration of research and education” and recognizes individuals “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”
CAREER awards provide recipients with five years of funding to help lay the foundation for their future research.
Dan Bergstralh, an assistant professor of biology, studies how epithelia, the most common type of tissue in the human body, are built during development and maintained through the lifespan of an organism. Cells are building blocks for tissues and organisms, and they need to be correctly placed in order to make functional structures. The direction in which a cell divides with respect to the tissue around it contributes to tissue shape. Bergstralh’s CAREER award will support his research on the molecular mechanisms that determine how cells “decide” the direction of division. Bergstralh will use advanced microscopy and data from the genome-editing tool CRISPR. The research has broader applications in cancer research, as cellular disorganization is suspected to facilitate cancer and 80 to 90 percent of all human tumors derive from epithelial cells.