Brown University Assistant Professor of Engineering Anita Shukla is the principal investigator of a new Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grant of $30,000 to broaden research on microbe-responsive antimicrobial hydrogels. The grant, which Shukla shares with Co-PI Arezoo Ardekani, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, was one of two awarded to applicants selected from the participants of the National Academy of Engineering’s 2020 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) Symposium. Less than 100 of the nation’s brightest early-career engineers were chosen to take part in the 26th annual symposium, which was held virtually in February 2021, after being postponed last year.
Antimicrobial resistance is a global health threat, and new treatments are needed to eradicate infections while maintaining the useful lifetime of existing antimicrobial drugs and not contributing to microbial resistance. Shukla has developed hydrogel platform technologies that exhibit a targeted release and thereby lessen unnecessary exposure to antimicrobial therapeutics. Ardekani will develop a computational model to examine physicochemical behavior and enzyme transport within these hydrogels. Working together, they hope to develop insights that will advance these technologies for use in different infection environments.
“These recipients are the epitome of what makes the Frontiers of Engineering program so special, innovative solutions sparked in a collaborative environment,” said NAE President John L. Anderson.
Frontiers of Engineering is an NAE program that brings together highly accomplished early-career engineers from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical work and leading-edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal is to facilitate interactions and exchange of techniques and approaches across fields and facilitate networking among the next generation of engineering leaders. The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants provide seed funding for U.S. FOE participants who are at U.S.-based institutions to enable further pursuit of important new interdisciplinary research and projects stimulated by the U.S. FOE symposia. All participants of the symposium were invited to apply for the funding, and one other project was chosen in addition to Shukla and Ardekani’s: Karthish Manthiram (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Suman Khatiwada’s (Syzygy Plasmonics) project, “Integrating Light and Voltage-Driven Reactions to Chemical Manufacturing.”
Shukla was also recently awarded a Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust Transformational Award, a $1 million grant intended to provide the bridge to the technology transfer process for moving an exciting health care innovation to the next step in commercial development. She has also been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, as well as receiving a Brown University Early Career Research Achievement Award. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the NSF’s most prestigious award “in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” In 2019, Shukla was tabbed a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), the nation’s highest award for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.