Assistant Professor David Estrada of the Micron School of Material Sciences and Engineering was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his work utilizing graphene as a bio-scaffold for musculoskeletal tissue engineering.
CAREER awards are NSF’s most prestigious awards given to junior faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their organization.
The award of more than $550,000 supports Estrada’s joint research with Department of Biology Professor Julie Oxford, as well as faculty from the Italian Institute of Technology and Southern Denmark University.
With this five-year award, Estrada will study the use of graphene as a bio-scaffold (an engineered structure upon which tissues may grow) for stem cell cultures. Estrada’s interest is in testing graphene’s ability to control electrical and thermal interactions with stem cells, and extending the findings towards the design of new materials for bioprinting. Estrada said that inspiration for the team’s research came from awareness about society’s growing, unsustainable dependence on organ donors to treat end-stage organ failure.
“Every 10 minutes someone is added to the national organ transplantation list and around 20 people a day die waiting for an organ,” said Estrada. “The gap between donors and patients continues to grow and new technologies that can enable patient-specific organ growth are sorely needed. Achieving control over stem cell fate could revolutionize tissue engineering, reducing dependence on donors to treat patient end-stage organ failure.”
The CAREER award also includes scientific outreach activities that will help establish a pathway for English language learners from a local dual-language immersion program into Boise State’s STEM programs.
“I’m very excited to work with 4Rivers Charter School and our Service-Learning program to integrate our research findings into their high school STEM curriculum. This is a great opportunity to help develop a local talent pool for our emerging programs in biomedical engineering,” said Estrada.
Estrada has been a faculty member since 2013. He also is an alumnus of Boise State’s McNair Scholars Program and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.