Clifford Brangwynne, an expert in the study of self-assembling structures within the cellular cytoplasm and nucleus, has been named a Searle Scholar for 2012.

In announcing the award, the Searle Scholar’s Program cited Brangwynne’s research into nucleoli as a means to control cellular growth. Nucleoli are structures consisting of proteins and RNA within the cell that often play a role in different types of disease such as cancer.

Brangwynne, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, was one of 15 scholars named this year. The scholars, selected from recently named assistant professors nominated by 125 universities and research institutions, are scientists who have already demonstrated work “with the potential for making significant contributions to chemical and biological research over an extended period of time,” the program’s announcement said.

Doug Fambrough, the program’s scientific director, said the scholars “are bold enough to embark on high-risk projects that offer the promise of leading to major advances.”

The Searle Scholar’s Program will support Brangwynne’s research with a $300,000 grant over the next three years. Brangwynne received his doctorate from Harvard in 2007. He is a Helen Hay Whitney fellow and was a recipient of an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship fellowship from the National Science Foundation.