Assistant Professor Jungwoo Lee of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department has won the President Young Investigator Award from the Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers (KIChE). According to the KIChE, “The award is intended to recognize Korean and Korean-American scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge in the general field of chemical engineering.”
During the KIChE U.S. Chapter Open Forum at the American Institute of Chemical Engineering Annual Meeting from November 10 to 15 in Orlando, Florida, Lee will be presented with an award plaque and a cash prize of $1,500 provided by the KIChE Headquarters, and, as the awardee, he will also make a presentation.
As Lee explains about his laboratory, “We are an interdisciplinary research group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Institute for Applied Life Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The mission of our laboratory is to deliver enabling and translational platform technologies that can advance basic biomedical research, solve various medical problems, and ultimately improve patient care.”
Lee adds that “We design and manufacture a broad range of materials to construct standardized, functional, human-tissue models and apply multi-dimensional imaging modalities to quantitatively capture complex and dynamic biological processes. The highly cross-disciplinary and collaborative working environment provides unique opportunities to group members at every stage to foster skill sets and intellectual proficiency at the intersection of engineering and medicine.”
As ChE Department Head John Klier explains in his nomination letter for Lee to the KIChE, “Jungwoo has pioneered a highly innovative and promising biomaterial system and has a clear vision of how to translate his bioengineering research into clinical applications. I am confident that Jungwoo’s study will have a tremendous impact over the next few years with important discoveries and innovative technologies.”
Klier also calls Lee “an incredibly talented and creative scholar working in the field of biomaterials and tissue engineering.”
Lee joined the ChE department as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering in September of 2014 after earning his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2009 and conducting postdoctoral research from 2009 to 2014 at the Center for Engineering in Medicine, the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard Medical School, and Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston.
“At UMass Amherst, Jungwoo has established a cancer bioengineering research program focusing on dormant-to-active transition of disseminated breast and prostate tumor cells in the bone marrow tissue microenvironment,” says Klier. “His effort was recognized in 2017 by an invitation to the Interdisciplinary Approaches to Cancer Metastasis Workshop, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. In this workshop, only 25 junior investigators in the U.S. were invited, and Jungwoo was one of only three engineers.”
Last year, recalls Klier, Lee published an impactful article regarding microenvironment regulation of disseminated tumor cells in Nature Biomedical Engineering. “In this work,” says Klier, “Jungwoo described humanized tumor microenvironments, including human stromal, human immune, and human tumor cells. His team carefully characterized microenvironment transition when dormant tumor cells awaken and regain proliferative phenotypes. This work has brought significant attention from the cancer metastasis research community.”
Klier adds that Lee has also made noteworthy progress with in vitro bone-marrow tissue engineering, focusing on trabecular bone tissue models.
“He developed a new biomaterial processing technique to obtain thin sections of demineralized bone matrices that have been used for clinical bone tissue engineering,” says Klier. “He demonstrated that these thin slices provide mechanical durability and optical transparency while retaining native bony extracellular matrix structure. He further demonstrated bone-forming osteoblasts and bone-resorbing osteoclasts cultures within these slices and successfully differentiated osteoblasts into osteocytes that reside beneath the bone surface applying cyclic mechanical signals.”
As Klier concludes, “These accomplishments indicate that [Lee] is a top researcher in the cancer bioengineering field.” (April 2019)