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Engineering’s Gunes Uzer Receives Young Investigator Award

Gunes Uzer, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at Boise State, is the 2016 recipient of the Young Investigator Award presented by Stem Cells journal. This $10,000 prize is awarded annually to a young scientist whose paper is judged by journal editors to be of worldwide significance.

Uzer was honored for his study “Cell Mechanosensitivity to Extremely Low-Magnitude Signals is Enabled by a LINCed Nucleus.” His work focuses on cell biology and deals with how cellular structure changes with mechanical signals, and how changes that then occur in cell structure inform the stem cell fate.

Specifically, he looks at the role of the nuclear envelope and the nucleoskeleton as a dynamic, mechano-responsive signaling platform that regulates the biochemical and physical coupling of cells to the outside world. In particular, it shows how the LINC complex of the nuclear envelope is a mechano-sensitive regulatory organelle in stem cell biology.

“Our finding has significant biomedical implications for approaches to cancer, injury, aging and diseases associated with poor nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling,” he said. “The findings from this paper have also laid the foundation for a prestigious NASA fellowship, opening new research avenues to study how mechanical adaptation of LINC complexes regulate stem cell fate under microgravity.”

Uzer is director of the Mechanical Adaptations Laboratory, where he leads a multidisciplinary research program. Over the past 10 years his studies have covered a broad range of topics, including advanced materials characterization, experimental photometry and finite element modeling, as well as cell and animal models. His work on stem cell mechanobiology is focused on identifying relevant components of mechanical signals that modulate a wide variety of musculoskeletal cell functions, as well as defining the mechanical control of stem cell structure, function and fate.

Uzer received a bachelor’s degree in physics in Turkey, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in biomedical engineering, both from Stony Brook University, New York. He did his postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, working with Janet Rubin in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology.

He has earned several professional awards in addition to Stem Cell’s YIA, including the Harold Frost Young Investigator Award, given by the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, as well as that organization’s Young Investigator Travel Award, both in 2015, and the NASA New York City Research Initiative (NYCRI) Achievement Award in 2009.