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BME Professor Randy Carney wins UC-Wide Early Career Award

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Randy Carney (Savannah Luy/UC Davis)

Assistant Professor Randy Carney from the Department of Biomedical Engineering is the recipient of the 2022 University of California’s Shu Chien Early Career Jury Award.

This annual UC-wide award, which was first awarded in 2020, is given to the pre-tenured faculty who demonstrates outstanding scholarly achievement. It is awarded at the UC Systemwide Bioengineering Symposium held each summer and recognizes the winner of a lecturer competition.

Carney’s presentation titled “Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy of extracellular vesicles: a new toolbox for clinical diagnostics” focused on his team’s development of early-stage cancer detection platforms using liquid biopsy. These techniques may be capable of detecting and diagnosing cancer using just a single drop of blood. He was one of 10 presenters at the symposium, taking home the “Jury Award” for his research accomplishments and on-site presentation. 

“I was very surprised and honored by this because the other nine speakers were nothing short of incredible,” Carney said.

Carney, who completed his postdoctoral fellowship at UC Davis and has been a professor in the UC Davis College of Engineering since 2018, develops new platforms for early-stage cancer diagnosis by applying spectroscopic methods to characterize circulating extracellular vesicles (EVs), small nano-sized particles released by tumor cells and found in biofluids like blood, urine and saliva. 

At his lab, The Carney Lab, they “do a lot of stuff that is pretty difficult to explain to our parents,” according to the lab’s website.

More specifically, they build cutting-edge Raman spectroscopy and surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) tools to investigate the broad range of EVs, with the goal of more sensitively and specifically identifying tumor-associated subpopulations. Projects include single vesicle Raman analysis of EVs isolated from ovarian cancer patient biofluids, chemical and materials synthesis of next-generation plasmonic SERS nanoprobes and microfluidic chip-based platforms that isolate EVs from clinical samples.

Or in layperson’s terms, their “expertise revolves around shooting lasers at nano-sized stuff to build new diagnostic devices and engineering other nano-sized stuff for cancer therapeutics.”

“Detecting these tiny, rare vesicles is truly a needle in a haystack problem, but they promise so much for the future of cancer detection and treatment,” he said. “My team is up for the challenge!”

The Shu Chien award is administered by the Bioengineering Institute of California, which was created in 2019 to synergize the strengths and expertise of ten UC campuses. The Shu Chien award recognizes the work of internationally renowned professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, Shu Chien, who is a world leader in the study of how blood flow and pressure affect blood vessels, and a member of members of all three U.S. national institutes: the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

The goal of the award is to foster the development and promotion of pre-tenured faculty across the UC system and to foster inter-UC-Campus activities between biomedical engineering departments and programs.

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