The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given Elliot Hui, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, a Young Faculty Award for his project titled “Directed Evolution of Phytochrome Absorption Spectra for Multichannel Optogenetic Cellular Interfaces.” He will receive $425,000 over two years.
“We plan to create a set of proteins that will activate different cellular functions in response to specific wavelengths of light,” says Hui. “We will start with the proteins plants use to steer themselves toward sunlight, and then create a set of modified proteins that are sensitive to different colors of light. Ultimately, we hope to use light to steer cell migration or pattern the differentiation of stem cells.”
The DARPA Young Faculty Award program aims to identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions and expose them to Department of Defense and National Security challenges and needs. It provides high-impact funding to elite researchers early in their careers to develop innovative new research directions in the context of enabling transformative Department of Defense capabilities.
Hui’s research group employs tools such as MEMS, microfluidics, and optogenetics to control biological systems dynamically at the microscale. His interests include tumor progression and stem cell differentiation as well as point-of-care diagnostics. He is a member of the Center for Complex Biological Systems, The Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology, and the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.