Published: June 12, 2023

The awards are part of $1.88 million in 2023 biomedical research grant funding for Colorado researchers 

Three University of Colorado Boulder assistant professors have been named 2023 Boettcher Investigators, each earning $235,000 in grant funding to support up to three years of biomedical research. The 13-year-old program invests in leading Colorado researchers during the early stages of their careers, providing support to fund their independent scientific research.


Nuris Figueroa Morales studies the complex interactions between microorganisms and their environment.

The three CU Boulder award winners and their fields of study are: 

  • Nuris Figueroa, assistant professor, physics; studying the mechanics of mucus organization and transport; 
  • Halil Aydin, assistant professor, biochemistry; investigating cellular and molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial form and function in human health and disease; and  
  • Nick Bottenus, assistant professor, biomedical, mechanics of materials, and robotics and systems design in the College of Engineering and Applied Science; studying binding kinetics of targeted microbubble agents.

Funding for the awards is made possible in part by the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program, which is administered by the Boettcher Foundation.

“It’s an honor to be acknowledged by a distinguished organization,” Aydin said of the Boettcher Foundation. “The Boettcher Foundation Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award will grant our laboratory the opportunity to develop novel approaches and push the boundaries of high-resolution imaging and structural cell biology to advance our understanding of how cellular machines function normally, and how they are corrupted by disease. An integrative understanding of how protein machines function has implications for targeting cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, cancers, aging and a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases.”


Halil Aydin is an expert in membrane biology, cell signaling, proteins and enzymology, molecular biophysics, structural biology, and electron cryo-microscopy (cryoEM).

Figueroa also expressed thanks to the Boettcher Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Program and for what the funding will mean for her research team’s work. 

“With this research grant, my team and I will have the means to investigate mechanical properties of lung mucus, how it flows, and how bacteria navigate in it,” she said. “Our research will look at the biophysics of lung-obstructive diseases using new quantitative and interdisciplinary tools, to further understand causes and consequences of failed mucus clearance and hopefully device solutions.”

Bottenus said, “Being named a Boettcher Investigator is an amazing career milestone. I’m grateful to become a part of a rich community of biomedical researchers throughout Colorado. This award will allow my group to grow in new directions, applying our acoustics and signal processing techniques to more fundamental biological investigations. I hope that our work will translate to improved diagnostic imaging, personalized medicine, and accessible health care technologies as we pursue new approaches to molecular imaging.”

Nick B.

Assistant Professor Nick Bottenus' research is focused on developing system-level solutions to problems in diagnostic ultrasound imaging.

The awards given to the three CU Boulder assistant professors are part of a larger pot of $1.88 million grant funding awarded to eight individuals from four of Colorado’s research institutions: CU Boulder, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus,Colorado State University and National Jewish Health. 

“We are thrilled to support our 2023 Boettcher Investigators, and as proud investors in their work, we are confident that these exceptional researchers will continue to push the boundaries of discovery and medical breakthrough,” said Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation. “Their innovative research holds the promise of transformational impact that will drive progress in health care and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Coloradans.”

Since its inception in 2010, the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program has advanced the work of 98 Boettcher Investigators with more than $20 million in grant funds. The researchers have attracted more than $150 million in additional independent research funding from federal, state and private sources. 

“Colorado BioScience Association applauds Boettcher Foundation’s support of Colorado’s most dynamic and promising researchers,” said Elyse Blazevich, president and CEO of the Colorado BioScience Association.

“The Webb-Waring Biomedical Awards program invests in Colorado researchers at a pivotal time in their careers and encourages them to deepen their roots in Colorado as they contribute to the leading-edge health innovations coming from our state.”