Skip to content

Abel Becomes College’s Sixth NSF CAREER Award Winner of 2018


The Tickle College of Engineering already had a big summer, with five faculty members being bestowed with prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER awards.

Make that six.

Steve AbelSteve Abel, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was notified Friday that he has also been selected for the honor, given by NSF in recognition of young faculty members making an impact in their field.

His proposal relates to the modeling of immune cells, particularly T cells and B cells, which begin in bone marrow before spreading through the lymphatic system to help fight infection.

“This is a sign of the excellent work going on here in our college and the quality of our faculty,” said Mark Dean, interim dean of the college. “Steve and the rest of our honorees should feel proud of their accomplishments.”

Assistant Professors Siris Laursen, Joshua Sangoro, Tim Truster, Daniel Costinett, and Andy Sarles each received the honor for their work earlier in the summer.

The college now has 13 faculty members so honored since 2016, underlying the important and growing role of young faculty across the college’s departments.

All NSF CAREER proposals have several components, including a requirement of an educational component, typically at the high school level.

Here is a brief glimpse into Abel’s projects, including the educational outreach component required by NSF:

Modeling the physics of immune cells

  • Immune cells such as T cells and B cells physically engage other cells as they search for molecular signatures of pathogens. It is vital to understand how mechanical forces impact their ability to recognize and respond to pathogens.
  • Abel will develop computational and theoretical approaches to model important biophysical interactions at cell-cell interfaces, which will allow him to explore processes regulating the activation of immune cells.
  • This project will contribute to the fundamental understanding of immunology, provide guidance for designing immunomodulatory materials and therapies, and deliver a new computational framework that can address other emerging questions in cell biology and soft biological materials.
  • Abel will motivate high school, community college, and undergraduate students to pursue studies in engineering and biology through a series of active learning experiences and research.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

View our Privacy Policy.