Dr. Sangho Bok First from SUU to Receive NSF CAREER Award

Published: September 07, 2021 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Dr. Sangho Bok, SUUSouthern Utah University’s Dr. Sangho Bok, assistant professor of engineering, was recently awarded a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. He is the first professor from SUU to receive this award, and SUU is the smallest institution in Utah to receive this award.

“NSF CAREER Awards are reserved for early career scientists and engineers who will be future role models in research, education, and their integration,” said Dr. James Brandt, interim dean for the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences. “Dr. Sangho Bok’s interdisciplinary STEM project involves the development and application of a new class of biosensors. His research has the potential to significantly improve the accuracy and speed of certain medical diagnoses. In addition to the long-term benefits of this work, Dr. Bok’s project will benefit our students with undergraduate research opportunities in engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science. This prestigious award is an outstanding achievement for Dr. Bok and it highlights the high-quality faculty, research, and learning experiences available in SUU STEM programs.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal organization dedicated to scientific research. CAREER awards are awarded to early career scientists in academia with innovative research projects. Hundreds of awards amounting at a minimum of $400,000 per project are distributed each year. Given that NSF CAREER awards are largely awarded to professors at research universities, it is a rare honor for a professor from a university as small as SUU to receive such an award.

“I am honored to receive this award and am incredibly thankful that the NSF has seen merit in this work,” said Dr. Bok. “The award will allow us to advance an important multidisciplinary project that could improve the biomedical diagnosis methodology.”

Dr. Bok’s research focuses primarily on the fundamental study and biomedical applications of the interaction between light and matter. Spending recent summers conducting preliminary research for a biomedical sensor project at the University of Missouri, his alma mater, Dr. Bok prepared to apply for the CAREER award.

Dr. Bok’s CAREER award will support his biomedical sensor project for five years. His project combines a fundamental study of the interaction between light and matter with biomedical applications. His project will further be integrated with machine learning to develop self-administered medical tests that allow individuals to self-diagnose infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and COVID-19.

Dr. Bok applied for his CAREER award when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Because of this, the focus of the biomedical applications in his project were modified slightly to accommodate for the immediate need for COVID-19 diagnosis through accurate, single-screening tests. Dr. Bok hopes that his approach to self-administered medical testing provides one more tool to make the world a safer place.

This research project will continue to develop over the next five years of Dr. Bok’s career with the help of NSF’s funding. Dr. Bok will include SUU students with the research for the project, and he plans to develop undergraduate classes for more students to be directly involved with the project. Beyond the university, Dr. Bok will also conduct outreach projects with community members and K-12 students to not only spread awareness for his project, but also to advocate and encourage the next generation to pursue topics in STEM.

“Dr. Sangho Bok's CAREER award will lead to important multidisciplinary research,” said Dr. Matthew Roberts, engineering department chair. “His biosensors and nanotechnology research bridges the gap between life science and engineering. Sangho’s research aligns well with the mission of our department, which emphasizes creating a student-oriented culture of curiosity, creativity, and discovery.”

Dr. Bok is thankful for SUU’s SPARC (Sponsored Programs, Agreements, Research, and Contracts) office for personally supporting him to attend an NSF CAREER workshop in Washington D.C.

“Dr. Sangho Bok has been very prolific in his pursuit of grant funding opportunities,” said Bobbie Ursin, research administrator with SPARC. “It has been a great pleasure to work with him on a number of proposal submissions and he has demonstrated a great understanding and skill level in grantsmanship. His recently funded NSF CAREER award is very prestigious and the SUU community celebrates his success.”

This project will benefit the next group of engineering students beyond their time at SUU. Not only will student researchers be paid through NSF funding, but they will also receive hands-on experience that will help them whether they choose to pursue a graduate degree or an industry position. Most importantly, this project will help make medical advances to diagnose infectious illnesses with greater ease.

The Department of Engineering and Technology is made up of undergraduate academic programs in three areas: engineering, technology, and construction management. The program mission is to: foster a student-centered learning environment, nurture a student-oriented culture of curiosity, creativity, and discovery, maintain a commitment to continuous improvement, encourage community engagement, establish and maintain high-quality accredited programs, and prepare graduates to be successful in professional careers.

Learn more about the Engineering Program at SUU.

Tags: College of Engineering and Computational Sciences SPARC Engineering

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