University News

Biomedical Engineering Professor Earns Prestigious National Science Foundation Award

Shue Wang, Ph.D., is committed to advancing her stem cell research and to serving as an educator and mentor to her students. She is now the second University of New Haven professor to receive the highly competitive Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the NSF.

February 1, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Shue Wang, Ph.D. (left), and her students in the laboratory.
Shue Wang, Ph.D. (left), and her students in the laboratory.

Shue Wang, Ph.D., is passionate about engineering and biology, and she enjoys the challenge of developing novel engineering tools to solve biological problems. Her innovative work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF), making her the second University faculty member to receive the foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award.

The highly competitive and prestigious award of more than $550,000 will support her research exploring how the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cell – cells that have self-renewal properties – is regulated. Chong Qiu, Ph.D., an associate professor of chemistry, received the coveted NSF award in 2019 for his groundbreaking research on aerosols – tiny particles suspended in the air – in the atmosphere.

“I was really thrilled when I got the notification,” said Dr. Wang, an assistant professor who joined the University in 2019. “I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award. It feels great that my research program was valued and supported by the greater science community. I feel honored to be part of the group of award recipients. I am also very grateful for the support of the University’s Biomedical Engineering Department, the Tagliatela College of Engineering, and our University community.”

‘One of our most hardworking faculty’

Interested in mesenchymal stem cells’ potential for use in cell-based therapies for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, Dr. Wang hopes to study the interactions of biophysical and biochemical factors that affect differentiation.

Dr. Wang says the fundamental mechanisms by which these cells differentiate into bone cells is not yet well understood. Using a novel micro-engineered platform to identify the functions and mechanisms that influence these stem cells’ differentiation, Dr. Wang endeavors to determine the function and mechanisms of mechanosensitive non-coding RNAs that regulate osteogenic differentiation.

Using a novel multiplex nanobiosensor (2D and 3D culture systems), she will investigate how stiffness, traction force, and geometric guidance regulate non-coding RNAs during mesenchymal stem cell differentiation. Her work will support the development of biomanufacturing and tissue engineering systems that will produce specific stem cell linages necessary for organs to function normally.

“This award will enable me to establish myself in the field of mechanosensing and mesenchymal stem cell differentiation,” she said. “It will also give me the opportunity to integrate my research into my teaching.”

Specifically, the award will support aspects of Dr. Wang’s research activities such as lab supplies and student researchers. Dr. Wang, whose current courses include “Tissue Engineering,” will also be developing an undergraduate level course titled “Introduction to Stem Cell Engineering” that will provide students with an overview of stem cell research and teach them about current topics at the frontier of the field.

“I am just thrilled that Shue has secured the second NSF Career grant for the Tagliatela College of Engineering and the University,” said Ronald Harichandran, Ph.D., P.E., F. ASCE, dean of the University’s Tagliatela College of Engineering and vice provost for research. “She is not only an outstanding researcher, but one of our hardest-working faculty. The recognition of Dr. Wang and Dr. Qiu puts us solidly in the group of prestigious engineering colleges that can boast multiple NSF Career Awards.”

Image of Shue Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor.
Shue Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor.
‘A significant opportunity to take my research to the next level’

Committed to her students’ success, Dr. Wang mentors her undergraduate and graduate students’ research studies. She also includes them in her own research, and she looks forward to the opportunities the award will create to engage more students in her ongoing research.

“Seeing my students succeed is what I enjoy the most about teaching at the University,” she said. “I am thrilled when students inform me they received several offers for graduate school, or job offers from biotech or pharmaceutical companies. In the classroom, I really enjoy when students ask great questions. This means they are really interested in learning more and understand the ‘whys,’ not just the ‘hows.’ One of the most important things I always try to teach my students is to improve their critical thinking skills.”

Committed to increasing equity by building community and increasing support within the field of biomedical engineering, Dr. Wang serves on the diversity committee of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), the professional society for the field. Grateful for the support of her family, she looks forward to the opportunities the award will create for her and for her students.

“It means a lot to me to get this level of recognition for my work,” said Dr. Wang. “It also provides a significant opportunity to take my research to the next level and to study biomechanical regulation of mesenchymal stem cell differentiation in more detail. It will help me get my students involved further and give them more chances to get their feet wet and contribute to the scientific community.”