NSF CAREER Award for CBE’s Shao; research project includes STEM education component

Professor Zengyi Shao
Professor Zengyi Shao

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering assistant professor and Jack and Carol Johnson Faculty Fellow Zengyi Shao has been named a recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. She is one of eight recipients of the award from Iowa State this year, seven of whom are from the College of Engineering.

NSF LogoShao’s CAREER project is entitled “Exploring nucleosome-depleted sequences for novel applications in synthetic biology.” It is an integrated research and educational program that deals with understanding how 3D genomic folding can affect cell behavior. The project addresses a central issue in synthetic biology involving specific DNA segments, which were previously thought to be of little use, that indeed have an important influence on cell metabolism. Shao’s group will be using yeast as a testbed for studying cellular behavior and creating synthetic genetic elements.

Shao’s project will also develop a uniquely-structured undergraduate research program that focuses on mentoring next-generation STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers, and promote the participation of underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities in STEM fields. This project will create new molecular tools for harnessing the power of biological systems to produce important products and will help encourage and prepare highly-skilled students with diverse backgrounds to engage in STEM careers.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the National Science Foundation’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 the mission of their organizations.