Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2017
Harnessing the Mechanobiology of the Glycocalyx to Influence Stem Cell Specification
That basic unit of living organisms, the cell, is a highly complex collection of components, each performing vital functions. One of those cellular components is the glycocalyx, a protective outer covering that surrounds some cell membranes. It is composed of a number of sugar molecules bonded together. The glycocalyx also plays a role in cellular recognition and signaling, although all of its functions are not yet fully understood.
Kamil Godula, chemistry, University of California, San Diego, has received a prestigious Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) to investigate the biophysical properties of the glycocalyx.
“We propose to combine approaches from chemistry, materials science and biophysics to tailor the architecture of the glycocalyx on living cells,” Godula said, “and to investigate how its biomechanical properties contribute to cellular differentiation during myogenesis [the formation of muscular tissue].”
Besides funding innovative research, the Cottrell Scholar Award also requires the recipient to advance innovations in teaching science. Godula plans to do so by broadening the exposure of undergraduate students to glycans, basically sugar molecules that can attach to a wide variety of biological molecules through an enzymatic process called glycosylation. He hopes to increase students’ understanding of glycan-related topics by establishing a new introductory glycoscience course available to undergraduate students from across all science and engineering programs on the UCSD campus. He will also create teaching materials highlighting glycoscience concepts for inclusion into basic science course lectures.