Dixon Receives NSF CAREER Award
J. Brandon Dixon, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded a prestigious 2014 Early Faculty Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation on multi-scale approaches to quantify biomechanical control of lymphatic pump function.
The CAREER Program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the effective integration of research and education within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Lymphatics exist in all higher vertebrates, returning fluid, proteins, lipids, and immune cells to the circulation through the intrinsic contractility of the vessels themselves. Dixon will test the extent that the inherent mechanical sensitivity of lymphatic contractility is capable of coordinating the contraction of these individual pumping units in way that preserves energy and maximizes lymph flow.
“I am excited to receive this CAREER award that will support my research on lymphatic mechanobiology,” exclaims Dixon. “These vessels have a remarkable ability to transport fluid under widely varying physiologic conditions, rapidly adjusting their function to compensate for changes in mechanical loading. Understanding how lymphatic biology has utilized mechanics to regulate and coordinate its drainage response to varying demand will not only provide key insight into diseases such as lymphedema, but it will also provide bio-inspired design approaches for developing artificial drainage networks in tissue engineering and nanotechnology that function in an as-needed fashion.”
Bill Wepfer, Chair of the Woodruff School, offers his congratulations by stating, “Dr. Dixon’s research focuses on the development and application of technologies for studying fundamental problems in lymphatic biology and disease: specifically the network which moves fats from the intestines to the blood and moves liquids and cells from body tissues back to the blood. Brandon's work has great potential for the development of new transformative therapies."
An additional and integral part of the award is an educational outreach component. To advance science engineering and lymphatic education, Dixon will target the current disparity in medical training in lymphatic biology by developing instructional modules on lymphatic physiology to be implemented in coordination with the Lymphedema Clinic at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute. Research from this award will also be integrated into a graduate level Biotransport course at Georgia Tech, providing students with unsolved engineering problems in lymphatic biomechanics through a problem-based learning approach. Lastly, to increase student exposure to bioengineering, particularly in underrepresented groups early in their education, elementary students will be engaged in interactive research-based science education utilizing the IPad, where they will see first-hand the benefits of engineering for understanding and treating disease.
Dixon’s award in the amount of $400,000 over five years will provide support for his research.
Dixon is the thirty-second Woodruff School faculty member to earn a CAREER Award.