Chundawat Receives NSF CAREER Award

Assistant Professor Shishir Chundawat (CBE) is the principal investigator of a 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award titled “Force Spectroscopy Enabled Multivalent Glycan-binding Protein Engineering.”

The goal of this project is to understand the structure-function relationships driving protein binding to glycans and to unravel the molecular forces relevant to protein-glycan binding interactions. To achieve this goal, a novel acoustic force spectroscopy (AFS) toolkit will be developed that is capable of assaying multiple glycan-protein interactions simultaneously. Carbohydrate binding modules (CBM) will be used to develop and validate the technique. AFS will allow for much higher throughput that traditional techniques and provide for probing the effect of physiologically-relevant acoustic force loading rate varied over several orders of magnitude.

“The interactions between glycans and proteins on the surface of cells can change how those cells function and how they respond to disease,” says Chundawat. “The focus of this project is to explore how glycans bind to proteins and what properties affect how they bind. The insights gained from this work will aid in the development of enzymes for improved biofuels and better biological drugs that can prevent infections.”

Chundawat’s CAREER proposal also outlines the engagement of elementary students through college freshmen via hands on experiments and smart-phone apps that teach users chemical engineering concepts.

“Another component of my CAREER award research is to study comparisons between single-molecule and bulk-ensemble estimated binding parameters for a library of CBMs to facilitate the development of a novel protein-glycan characterization toolkit,” says Chundawat. “Ultimately, this technique would be utilized by protein engineers or bioengineers as a screening tool for to identify improved antigens and industrial biocatalysts.”

The NSF CAREER program fosters the career development of outstanding junior faculty, combining the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense.