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Neda Bagheri receives prestigious honor for young faculty

National Science Foundation recognizes creative integration of research and education

Neda Bagheri
Neda Bagheri

Northwestern University synthetic biologist Neda Bagheri has received a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the foundation’s most prestigious honor for junior faculty members.

Bagheri will receive $500,000 over five years from NSF’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems to support both research and education initiatives.

“I am grateful to the NSF for enabling basic science research that has the potential to transform our environment, quality of life and future,” said Bagheri, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering.

The CAREER award supports early career development of individuals who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. 

[Synthetic biologists break new ground in medicine, energy]

Bagheri’s primary research goal is to explain biological observations through mathematical formulations. With NSF support, Bagheri will investigate heterogeneous cell population dynamics and both develop and analyze computational models of these systems. She also will introduce science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts to young and diverse audiences through a children’s book series. The books will highlight the contributions of women and underrepresented minorities to STEM fields.

“In addition to supporting our continuing effort to uncover design principles within and across cellular environments, this notable opportunity addresses an equally important mission of making STEM more accessible to broad audiences,” Bagheri said.

The process of writing down computational “rules” for biological systems helps Bagheri and her research group better understand the foundation of emergent or complex phenomena, interrogate the status quo and develop informed hypotheses, she said.