Dr. Huiliang Wang, an assistant professor in the Biomedical Engineering and Texas Materials Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, has been honored with the prestigious NSF Career Award for his project that delves into the creation of new nanoparticles to unravel the mysteries of the brain. This initiative seeks to revolutionize the understanding of brain function through the development of hydrogen-bonded organic frameworks (HOFs) nanoparticles for ultrasound-triggered neuromodulation.

For the past decade, scientists have employed optogenetics to gain insights into the intricate workings of the brain. Optogenetics involves controlling specific brain cells using light, but the drawback lies in the necessity for surgical procedures to deliver this light, posing potential harm to the neurons. Wang's team is pioneering an alternative approach by leveraging nanoparticles and ultrasound waves to achieve the same results without the need for surgery. The nanoparticles, composed of special materials known as hydrogen-bonded organic frameworks, exhibit unique properties. When the nanoparticles are exposed to ultrasound waves, they can emit light or release chemicals, offering a non-invasive means to control specific brain neurons.

Wang's project extends beyond technical innovation to embrace a broader impact on the community. The "Biomaterials Research in Engineering" (BRING) outreach program is a significant component of this endeavor. Tailored to engage underrepresented engineering students at Austin Community College (ACC), the program offers theoretical and practical modules related to biomaterials research. This outreach initiative not only enriches the educational experience of students but also contributes to the long-term health and innovation of the scientific community.

In conclusion, the NSF Career Award bestowed upon Huiliang Wang is a testament to the project's alignment with NSF's statutory mission and its merit in terms of intellectual and broader impacts. This research not only expands our understanding of HOFs as biomaterials but also paves the way for cutting-edge technologies in neuroscience research and therapeutic applications for neurological diseases. Wang's commitment to outreach underscores the importance of fostering impact in broader community, ensuring a vibrant and innovative scientific landscape.