NDSU engineering assistant professor receives NSF CAREER Award to fight cancer

Photo by: NDSU
Photo by: NDSU

(Fargo, ND) -- Dali Sun, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the NDSU College of Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. The recognition is considered the agency’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty.

Sun will use the more than $500,000 grant to develop a novel elliptical dichroism microscope that will significantly expand the scope of cellular analysis. He believes the new technology will enable new insight into cancer cells through the structural feature of the biomolecules.

“I am very much honored to receive this award,” Sun said in a statement released to WDAY Radio. “I am focusing on translational technology development for cancer detection and treatment.”

The goal of Sun’s CAREER project is to provide deeper insight into cell homeostasis in a real-time and label-free way, and find broad applications in areas spanning basic biological research to cancer diagnosis.

“It will enable label-free pathology for cancer diagnosis, eventually reducing the risk of false diagnosis,” Sun said.

The research also will be used to create high-quality hands-on course content for NDSU students and engage outreach activities for the community.

“The research goals integrate with the educational objectives of introducing product-oriented learning on advanced microscopy and biomedical device design,” said Sun. “The outreach activities will focus on senior citizens by hosting student-led educational seminars about basic cancer knowledge and advanced optical cancer detection.”

Sun’s research lab features a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines including, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science and microbiology.

“My lab is constantly training our undergraduates and graduates for advanced research in the medical field,” Sun said. “I focus on hands-on training in the lab, closely mentoring each student with experimental details and explanations.”

Sun joined NDSU in 2018 after being a postdoctoral fellow at Arizona State University and Houston Methodist Research Institute. He earned his doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Tokyo.

NSF awards CAREER grants to scholars who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. Overall, CAREER awardees at NDSU have received nearly $15 million in grants to conduct research in biology, biochemistry, biophotonics, chemistry, civil and electrical engineering, computer science, pharmaceutical sciences, plant sciences, coatings and polymeric materials, and veterinary and microbiological sciences.