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Jennifer Munson, an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, has received a prestigious, national award for her research.

Munson has been named the winner of the Biomedical Engineering Society’s 2016 Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award, which recognizes originality and ingenuity in research. Her lab’s work has focused on advancing our understanding of the brain and brain cancers.

“Though treatment for many cancers has advanced, leading to better prognoses, treatment of brain cancers has remained poor,” she said. “My laboratory studies how the microenvironment of the brain contributes to poor efficacy of current therapies and invasive recurrence of tumors. We design and use 3-D tissue engineered models of brain cancer to study the cellular interactions and therapeutic response of cancer in a controlled setting.”

Munson is UVA Engineering’s third winner. UVA has the largest number of recipients of any university since the award was established in 2000. Professor Shayn Peirce-Cottler earned the award in 2004, and Associate Professor Kevin Janes received the honor in 2006.

“Dr. Munson’s work shows what’s so exciting about biomedical engineering: it’s the ability to use quantitative methods to understand and unravel the mechanisms underlying diseases like brain cancer,” said Professor Fred Epstein, chair of Biomedical Engineering.

The Biomedical Engineering Society offers the Young Investigator Award to stimulate research careers in biomedical engineering.

The published work of note is Munson’s 2013 Cancer Research paper, “Interstitial flow in a 3D microenvironment increases glioma invasion by a CXCR4-dependent mechanism.” The paper pursues the hypothesis that interstitial flow dictates and increases glioma invasion, based on the observation that flow pathways in the brain correlate with routes of invasion.

Munson will present a 20-minute plenary lecture at the society’s annual meeting in October.

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