Alumni Win NSF CAREER Grants

Monday, February 25, 2019

Ford Versypt

The National Science Foundation has awarded Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grants to two alumni of the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF).

Ashlee Ford Versypt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Oklahoma State University, and Tal Danino, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University, received the grants, NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty. The endowments support researchers with potential to serve as academic role models and to lead advances in the missions of their departments, the NSF CAREER website says.

Ford Versypt, a DOE CSGF recipient from 2006 to 2010, will receive $550,000 over five years for her project, titled “Multiscale Modeling of a Virtual Kidney during the Onset and Progression of Diabetic Kidney Disease.” The simulation will connect several processes that contribute to kidney damage due to diabetes and help understand how they interact and proceed over time, a project abstract says. The model will be used to test and optimize treatments.


Danino, also a DOE CSGF recipient from 2006 to 2010, will receive $525,000 over five years for his project, “Engineering Bacteria Swarming for Biotechnology.” He plans to harness the swarming behavior seen in some bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli, a common organism. “If bacteria can be designed to swarm, forming rings in response to a specific signal, the cells can act as a sensor that can be observed easily,” the project abstract says. “The signals could be viruses, toxic chemicals, or dangerous pathogens.” The engineered bacteria could provide a low-cost macroscopic detector to identify and avoid diseases and other toxic agents.

Ford Versypt received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 2005. She earned a master’s (2009) and a doctorate (2012) in the same subject from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Danino earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry, math and physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2005 and a doctorate in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, in 2011.