Three Rice bioengineers will receive awards at 2024 Biomedical Engineering Society conference

King, Gao and Vlassakis honored for leadership, service, and research in the cell and molecular bioengineering community.

Michael King, Xue Gao, Julea Vlassakis

Three Rice Bioengineering faculty members have been selected to receive 2024 Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE) awards. BMES CMBE award recipients Michael R. King, Xue (Sherry) Gao and Julea Vlassakis demonstrate remarkable leadership, service and innovation in the field of cellular and molecular bioengineering. 

Michael R. King, who will join Rice University on July 1, 2024 as the E.D. Butcher Chair of Bioengineering, will receive the Chris Jacobs Award for Excellence in Leadership. This award recognizes leadership excellence in the cell and molecular bioengineering community and is named in memory and honor of Christopher R. Jacobs, Ph.D., who co-founded the BMES CMBE special interest group. As a national leader in the field of biomedical engineering, King’s research has advanced the understanding and treatment of cancer and other diseases. 

King will serve as a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Scholar at Rice. His research focuses on innovating new approaches to treating cancer by investigating the mechanobiology of metastatic cancer and immune cells. In addition to his research and teaching responsibilities, King will be the special advisor to the provost on life science collaborations with the Texas Medical Center. 

King’s national and international presence includes fellowships with the National Academy of Inventors, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Biomedical Engineering Society, and the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering. King is also the editor-in-chief of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering. Currently, King is the J. Lawrence Wilson Professor of Engineering at Vanderbilt University.

Xue (Sherry) Gao, T.N. Law Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and assistant professor of chemistry, and of bioengineering, will receive the CMBE Rising Star Award. The CMBE Rising Star Award recognizes a BMES-CMBE member who is at their early independent career stage and has made an outstanding impact on the field of cellular and molecular bioengineering. Gao’s lab is focused on developing and engineering genome-editing tools with broad applications in disease treatment, diagnostics, and the exploration of novel small-molecule drugs. She joined the Rice Engineering faculty in 2017 and earned her Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.  

Julea Vlassakis, assistant professor of bioengineering, will also receive the CMBE Rising Star Award. Vlassakis is a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Scholar and oversees the Vlassakis Microtechnologies for Pediatric Oncology Lab, which studies the key protein conformations and interactions of cancer progression in order to deliver the next generation of ‘molecularly surgical’ therapies. 

Earlier this year, Vlassakis was also awarded the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award for her contributions to the field. Vlassakis joined the Rice Engineering faculty in 2021. She earned her Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

King, Gao and Vlassakis will receive the CMBE awards at the 2024 BMES CMBE conference, taking place January 2–6 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.