Kennesaw State Engineering Professor Receives CAREER Grant from National Science Foundation


Yizeng Li

KENNESAW, Georgia (June 23, 2021) – Yizeng Li, professor at Kennesaw State University, received a highly competitive CAREER grant of $ 526,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the institution’s first, to support her study on cell migration and launch an undergraduate research initiative.

NSF’s Early Career Development Program, one of the most prestigious awards available to early-career faculty, supports those who demonstrate the potential to serve as academic models in research and education. Li, who joined Kennesaw State’s Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology in 2019, said the funding would help better understand the role of hydraulics in cell migration during immune response, wound healing and cancerous metastases.

“Having studied this for years, I believe this research has the potential to have a broad impact and will inform future studies on cell migration,” said Li, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at KSU. “While the benefit to me is clear, I am also excited about the prospect of training the next generation of researchers by bringing KSU students into the field. ”

After obtaining his doctorate. in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, Li has focused much of his research on how cell migration is influenced by the hydraulic environment of confined spaces in the body, such as between layers of tissue or within tumors. Using mathematical modeling, his NSF-funded research will attempt to demonstrate how natural hydraulics help facilitate cell movement.

With a better understanding of how cell migration works, she believes it will help the healthcare industry identify ways to promote positive cell migration, such as wound healing and tissue regeneration, and prevent events. negatives of cell migration, such as the spread of cancer cells throughout the body.

“Ultimately our goal is to benefit human health,” she said. “We believe there are implications for physicians and pharmaceutical companies that will help develop new treatments for patients based on this research.”

In addition to research, the funding will allow Li to create an undergraduate research program in which she hopes to recruit first-time researchers and help them gain the necessary experience for postgraduate studies. Designed as a three-semester program, it will be open to students studying engineering, mathematics, physics and biology, among other disciplines.

“We are delighted to see Dr. Li’s efforts rewarded with this NSF grant, and we look forward to seeing her further strengthen the research environment that exists at KSU and within the Faculty of Engineering,” said Phaedra Corso , vice-president of research. “His research has a clear societal impact, and exposing students to this kind of transformative experience will hopefully leave an impression that will last for years to come.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos of David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers nearly 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two Atlanta metro campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the Georgia University System and the second largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant culture, diverse population, strong global ties, and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the region and from 126 countries around the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-nominated doctoral (R2) research institute, which places it among an elite group of just 6% of US colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit


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