Josephine Allen Receives NSF CAREER Award

Congratulations to Josephine Allen, Ph.D., for receiving the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, entitled “CAREER: Biomolecular Engineering Approach to Controlling Cell Processes”.

Josephine Allen, Ph.D.In this work, Allen focuses on developing strategies to control cellular functions, which is critical in the field of tissue engineering. Controlling cellular processes is often achieved through activating receptor proteins on the surface of the cells, which triggers a cascade of events leading to a desired cellular response. Of interest are the cellular responses that contribute to the formation of a blood vessel network. Controlling blood vessel formation is paramount to the success of many engineered tissue substitutes and continues to be a challenge and a barrier to progress within the field. Current strategies include the use of receptor-specific growth factors which are difficult to control, can be unstable, require high doses and may bind to unintentional targets. There is a need to promote blood vessel formation using alternative strategies.

Allen seeks to develop a new strategy to control cellular processes through the use of highly tunable small molecules termed aptamers. If successful, this work will advance understanding of the fundamental science involved in controlling cellular behavior and significantly impact the field of tissue engineering.

Allen has planned education and outreach activities that have been integrated with the proposed research and involve providing hands-on research experience to students in local middle and high schools, creating online educator resources that will be available to K-12 teachers nationwide, and outreach to underrepresented minority undergraduate students.

Allen earned her Ph.D. in biological sciences from Northwestern University in 2009, and she joined the Materials Science and Engineering Department in fall 2010 as an assistant professor. The Allen lab works on various strategies utilizing material properties to control cellular processes, particularly on adult stem cell differentiation. Her primary research objective is in the area of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Allen’s work is funded partly by grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Defense, US. Army.

More information about Dr. Allen’s research interest can be found at