MSUCOM faculty member earns prestigious early-career award


Dr. Jason Bazil named one of 11 MSU faculty members who received NSF CAREER awards

Jason Bazil, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Michigan State University Department of Physiology, has earned the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award.

According to the NSF, the CAREER award is one of the most prestigious honors to “support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” The award includes a five-year federal grant (MCB-2237117) to support research and educational activities.

“This is a multidisciplinary project with lofty aspirations, so putting all the pieces together in an optimal way will be challenging. That said, working with others to solve this daunting problem will be most rewarding,” Dr. Bazil said. “I look forward to working with students, colleagues and friends to learn new things about how mitochondrial structure influences their ability to perform their function.”

Mitochondria research powering health care

Dr. Bazil’s work in mitochondria research began as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, where he one day ran calcium loading experiments involving isolated heart mitochondria. He noticed something odd. When the calcium loading got too high, mitochondrial adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production was significantly and unexpectedly impaired. Since then, he has been studying the organelle and its long-standing phenomena that has stumped researchers across the globe.

“This field provides some of the most challenging puzzles to solve! I am interested in how systems work and seek ways to control them,” he said. “Mitochondria are a great subject for these interests – metabolism is foundational to all life, and mitochondria constitute a major element of metabolism.”

Since joining MSU in 2016, Dr. Bazil has built a talented team,which includes undergraduate students, a postdoctoral fellow, a Ph.D. student and a D.O.-Ph.D. student, who contribute to the innovative research produced by the Bazil Lab.

The short-term goal of Dr. Bazil’s research is to demonstrate that ultrastructure (how the various compartments inside mitochondria are aligned, distributed and connected) is a major governing factor behind the metabolic behavior of mitochondria. The long-term goal is to develop sophisticated, spatial models of mitochondrial metabolism that reveal causal origins of various disease pathologies.

“This work has the potential to open up new therapeutic approaches to treating mitochondrial disorders,” Dr. Bazil said. “Mitochondria are essentially little batteries for your cells, and we still have so much more to learn about them.”

Advice for pursuing research

For those interested in research, Dr. Bazil recommends having “a solid mental model of what we call reality in your mind about the problem you’re interested in,” which requires exploring and reading diverse perspectives to “avoid getting locked into dogma.” He suggests finding the leaders in the field and reading their work, then generating flow charts to attempt to establish causality chains. With this background, he advises using the mental model to look for inconsistencies, incongruencies and gaps in knowledge.

“Finally, use well-designed experiments to unravel the mysteries of life and enjoy the fruits of your labor,” he said. “This is a difficult and complicated process, but it is extremely satisfying when things go right.”

Learn more about MSU’s NSF CAREER awardees at the MSU Office of Research and Innovation.


By Elexi Dailey