UAB researchers awarded prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Awards

The National Science Foundation has awarded UAB assistant professors Abdollah Mirbozorgi, Ph.D., and Hui-Ting Lee, Ph.D., its Faculty Early Career Development Program’s CAREER awards.

RS36850 S. Abdollah Mirbozorgi 1 scrAbdollah Mirbozorgi, Ph.D.,
Photography: Lexi Coon
Abdollah Mirbozorgi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Engineering’s’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Hui-Ting Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry, have both received National Science Foundation CAREER awards.

The Faculty Early Career Development Program, or CAREER, supports the development of early-career researchers and 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.

Tumor precision ablation research

Mirbozorgi’s project titled “Heat Penetration Depth and Direction Control with Closed Loop Device for Precision Ablation” will focus on the process of tumor precision ablation. This technique is designed to attack cancerous tumors via surgical uses. Ablation, while effective, commonly damages surrounding healthy tissues. The award, totaling nearly $550,000 over five years, will fund his research into a device that could refine this technique for uses to limit the spread of heat during this process.  

“I am both honored and thrilled to receive the prestigious NSF CAREER award,” Mirbozorgi said. “It is a validation of the hard work and dedication that goes into my research, and a significant milestone that motivates me to continue pushing the boundaries of what I can accomplish in this field. This achievement would not have been possible without the support and assistance I received from my colleagues and collaborators.”

Mirbozorgi’s work involves a first-of-its-kind ablation catheter with an integrated heat producer-absorber module for applying an alternate heating and freezing process. He believes that this work will not only largely benefit the medical field but serves as a testament to the growth and future of the School of Engineering.

“This award enhances the School of Engineering’s reputation and demonstrates our commitment to excellence in research and education,” Mirbozorgi said. “Moreover, it strengthens our ability to offer cutting-edge educational opportunities to our students, particularly in the exciting and rapidly evolving field of precision medicine electronics and tumor ablation technologies.” 

Hui TingLee 2 scr copyHui-Ting Lee, Ph.D.Interactions of DNA and RNA and RNA’s biological development

Lee’s project titled “CAREER: Single-Molecule Study of Nucleic Acid Conformational Dynamics in Telomere” will work to understand how the slow folding process of non-canonical secondary structures affects telomere maintenance. The award, totaling $971,969, will focus on the biological function of telomere. The research will study how DNA and RNA interact with each other, while the education portion will focus on the developments in RNA biology.

“It feels good to have my work deemed important and necessary on such a prestigious scale and serves a reminder of the responsibility to continue to elevate my research,” Lee said. “I began at UAB in the fall of 2019, right before COVID hit us, and it was very hard for me to start the lab and jump between in-person and online teaching. I would not have made it without the support of colleagues and friends in my department, physics, biochemistry, molecular genetics and other departments across campus and the UA System.”

This award will support her research through 2029 on her single molecule biophysics work. Lee says this award is a testament to the continuous efforts and advancements in science education from the chemistry department.

Chemistry is a teaching-heavy department, and instructing about 200 students per year on average in the biochemistry classrooms tells me what the student and the society lack and need,” Lee said. “This need became the proposal that NSF recognized as important, and it is this recognition (and the funding that comes with it) that will support our mission to continue and expand.”

Established by Congress in 1950, the NSF is an independent federal agency that supports science and engineering all 50 states and territories.