Mustafa Unal, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, has been selected by the Orthopedic Research Society to receive its 2017 Alice L. Jee Young Investigator Award for work that potentially will improve the clinical assessment of bone strength and quality.

Mustafa Unal, Ph.D.

Unal, who works in the lab of Jeffry S. Nyman, Ph.D., associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, will receive the award in August during the society’s 47th International Musculoskeletal Workshop at Sun Valley, Idaho.

Unal earned his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Selcuk University in Turkey. Supported by a graduate fellowship from the Turkish government, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA), and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in 2016.

In graduate school he developed an application of a laser-based diagnostic technique called Raman spectroscopy to assess age- and disease-related changes in the bone matrix that can increase fracture risk.

Unal joined Nyman’s lab and the Vanderbilt Center for Bone Biology in 2017.

Nyman, a previous recipient of the society’s Young Investigator Award, investigates ways to improve the clinical assessment of fracture risk and identify factors that regulate bone toughness. The aim is to reduce the incidence of bone fractures associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, genetic diseases and aging.

Unal and Nyman currently are translating Raman spectroscopy from a powerful laboratory tool into a useful and practical diagnostic instrument for bone evaluations. Accurate assessment of fracture risk is critical to the timely inception of therapy as well as to avoiding unnecessary therapy.

Unal has received several previous honors for his work including a Baxter Young Investigator Award from health care giant Baxter International in 2015.