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Bo Sun in front of brick wall

Physicist receives NSF Career award and more

By Debbie Farris
Bo Sun, associate professor of physics and recipient of the National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award

All in one month, Bo Sun, an associate professor of physics, received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award totaling $740K and a New Investigator Award by the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.

Sun was awarded an NSF CAREER Award for his project, “Understand the multiplexing and communication in multicellular sensory response.” In September, he will receive an initial $300K as part of the five-year research grant.

The goal of this research project is to advance quantitative understanding of information processing in mammalian cells. While much has been learned about single cell, single pathway signaling dynamics, the collective sensory response via highly multiplexed signaling pathways is poorly understood. Sun seeks to understand the physics behind the integrated complexity of noise, multiplexing, and communication through a synergy of multiscale investigations. A tireless advocate for and mentor to undergraduate and graduate students, he has three personal initiatives focused on student success and outreach and community engagement:

  • To develop a hybrid course, BIOPHYSICS Discovery, in order to enhance the student experience in interdisciplinary science education.
  • To organize an annual Science Storytellers Workshop to team up STEM students with liberal art students.
  • To expand his current outreach programs with more emphasis on first-generation college students and students from low-income families. Sun plans to collaborate with physics colleagues who run a nationally recognized Physics Education Research group to implement, assess, and disseminate results of education and outreach initiatives.

For the research project, Sun will study the calcium dynamics of endothelium shear-stress sensing using advanced microenvironment engineering, statistical analysis, and theoretical modeling. The results will advance the physics of cellular sensor dynamics and have far-reaching impacts in engineering and medicine.

A theoretical physicist by training, Sun has pivoted to biophysics, a rare and arduous feat. His CAREER award is jointly supported by the Physics of Living Systems program in the Division of Physics and the Systems and Synthetic Biology clusters in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.

The NSF CAREER program fosters the career development of outstanding junior faculty who show excellence in integrating teaching and research. The award offers recipients both broad research support and education of the highest quality.

Sun named new investigator of the year by OHSU Foundation

Sun also won the 2019 Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award from the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon which is administered by the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Foundation. The honor recognizes a new investigator who shows exceptional promise early in a career in biomedical research and who is within seven years or less of completing clinical and/or post-doctoral training. Recipients are evaluated on the basis of independence, quality of science, national funding and first or senior authored publications in peer-reviewed biomedical research journals. The culmination of the research must have been performed in Oregon.

The award includes support of $3,000, a commemorative award and recognition at a ceremony at OHSU.