Mikhail Shapiro, assistant professor of chemical engineering, Schlinger Scholar, and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, has been named a 2018 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, along with 12 other researchers. The award, presented by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, is given to young faculty who "have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship and are deeply committed to education," according to the foundation's website. Each awardee will receive a grant of $75,000.
"The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar award honors young faculty who are making a difference in their teaching as well as in research," says Jacqueline Barton, the John G. Kirkwood and Arthur A. Noyes Professor of Chemistry and the Norman Davidson Leadership Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech. "Mikhail is unquestionably a worthy recipient of this award."
The overall research goal of the Shapiro group is to image and control cells deep inside the body using noninvasive techniques, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Some of the technologies developed for this purpose involve protein nanostructures, called gas vesicles, that are normally found in bacteria. He and his group have figured out ways to engineer gas vesicles so that they can reflect ultrasound waves and ultimately be used as unique tools in medical imaging. The Shapiro group also designed bacteria to make the gas vesicles—a step toward imaging therapeutic bacterial cells in patients' guts in the future. This technology could potentially be used in conjunction with the so-called molecular thermal bioswitches developed by Shapiro's group that allow ultrasound to control the function of bacteria at specific locations in the body.
Shapiro and his colleagues have also shown that gas vesicles could potentially be used as MRI contrast agents that blink off on command, thereby allowing MRI scans to be interpreted more easily. In addition, his work with Azita Emami, Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, has demonstrated how miniature medical devices known as "smart pills"could be located in the body using MRI.