Cal State LA awarded a prestigious National Institutes of Health research grant


Photo: Negin Forouzesh, assistant professor of computer science at Cal State LA.
(Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA) 

By Margie Low, Cal State LA News Service

Cal State LA was recently awarded a $730,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide students with opportunities to participate in biomedical research. 

The four-year grant from the NIH Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) program will support research on computer-aided drug design. Five students will work on the project each year.  

Student research assistants will help design and develop a hybrid computational model. They will also clean, optimize and organize data.

“The SuRE program seeks to develop and sustain excellence of faculty research and provide students with research opportunities while catalyzing institutional research and enriching the research environment,” said Negin Forouzesh, the grant’s principal investigator and assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at Cal State LA. 

In her research, Forouzesh applies mathematical and physics-based modeling, high-performance computing, and machine learning to simulate and understand biomolecular systems. A Burbank resident, she received her Ph.D. in computer science from Virginia Tech.

The NIH SuRE award will fund Forouzesh’s research project: “Improving the Accuracy of Implicit Solvents with a Physics-Guided Neural Network.” 

Protein-ligand interaction is central to several biological processes, including DNA replication and cellular energy production. It also has vast applications in the early stages of drug discovery.

“The outcome of this research will improve the current understanding of protein-ligand interactions and will benefit computer-aided drug design,” said Forouzesh.

Through the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the SuRE program supports research capacity building at institutions that enroll significant numbers of students from backgrounds nationally underrepresented in biomedical research and award degrees in biomedical sciences. 

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