Henry Fu has received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to advance his work in finding how microorganisms such as bacteria travel through complex biological environments in the human body.
The Faculty Early Career Development Award, known as a CAREER Award, is $400,000 for five years of research for Fu, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering in the University's College of Engineering.
The work could lead to advances in fighting infections, enable better navigation of micro robots for medical uses such as targeted cancer medicines, understanding how bacteria moves through soils or how microbes move through biological matter.
The project also contains an educational component which will create "Move Like a Microbe," a force-feedback simulation of micro scale microbial locomotion. It will bring the proposed research to life for the public and K-12 students by providing a hands-on demonstration of how microorganisms are able to swim, and explaining the consequences of microbial locomotion to everyday life.
The CAREER Program Award is given to faculty members at the beginning of their academic careers and is one of the National Science Foundation's most competitive awards, placing focus on high-quality research and education activities.
"This nationally recognized standard of excellence is a major accomplishment," Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering, said. "This type of award is one of the national standards of accomplishment for faculty in the early stages of their career. We all congratulate Henry for this significant step.
"An award like this speaks well for the excellence of the faculty and the research programs in our college. The college and the University are committed to providing our young faculty the best support possible for them to succeed, and accomplishments like Henry's make all of us particularly proud."
Faculty in the College of Engineering have received three CAREER Awards in the past five years, and before that, faculty in the chemistry department in the College of Science received five CAREER Awards beginning in 1996.
Fu received his master's degree in chemistry concurrently with a chemistry and physics bachelor's degree, with a minor in mathematics from Harvard University. His master's work included research in the field of low-temperature laser spectroscopy. He received a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006.
Fu redirected his research field to biological mechanics and fluid dynamics as a postdoctoral research associate in the Division of Engineering at Brown University from 2006-2010. His current research at the University of Nevada, Reno includes topics in complex biomaterials, hydrodynamics of swimming microorganisms, and Low-Reynolds number hydrodynamics.
The National Science Foundation established the CAREER program to support junior faculty within the context of their overall career development, combining in a single program the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense.