In mid-February, I had the opportunity to visit the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Riverside. During the visit, I gave a speech entitled “Musculoskeletal Regenerative Engineering: Taking on the Grand Challenges.” My talk highlighted the tremendous work being carried out here at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. More specifically, I discussed the importance of stem cell technology and nanotechnology as we move forward with our bold idea: musculoskeletal limb regeneration.
I had a wonderful experience at UC Riverside. The scholars are exceptional and the students are enthusiastic, smart, and hardworking. I so appreciated the hospitality provided by UC Riverside and I’m grateful to all who hosted me.
I was fortunate to be asked to provide a keynote speech for the Second International Conference on Nanotechnology held in Kochi, India. There I was reunited with some of my former students, all of whom are now professors. Swami Sethuranum (left) is the director of the Center for Nanotechnology at SASTRA University near Chennai, India; Dhiru Katti (center) is a leading researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur; and Lakshmi Nair (right) is an outstanding scientist who has been with me since our days at Drexel University in the 1990s. She is currently a core member of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut. All are internationally known for their work in nanotechnology, and all were invited to speak at this conference.
As proud as I am of the research work we do here at UConn, I am even prouder of the people I’ve had the privilege of mentoring and training. Watching them succeed in their fields of endeavor is very gratifying. Seeing them together in India underscores how fortunate we are to have such an international family. All gave exceptionally strong presentations in their areas of nanobiomaterials and nanomedicine. Although we have not been together physically for seven years, we are in constant communication. It is extremely satisfying to know that, as a group, our spirits remain linked.
As many of you know, I am very proud of my African-American heritage, especially the successes and successful struggles of African-American people in America. On February 14th, I was very fortunate to be interviewed by Fox 61 as part of its series, “Black History is Everyone’s History”, celebrating African-American achievements in Connecticut. During the interview, I shared the story of the success and achievements of our Institute for Regenerative Engineering.
While excited about our success, clearly the story would not be possible except for the sacrifices of many, many African-Americans who toiled for generations to bring me and others “to the place where our fathers sighed” (to quote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro National Anthem). We must always be mindful of that, and be mindful of our obligations to reach back and move forward the generations that follow us.
I was proud to be one of five who received the 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, which recognizes achievement and service that reflects the great civil rights leader’s ideals. The awards dinner and breakfast, held on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week, was uplifting. Each year, candidates for the leadership awards are nominated by their colleagues. Simply to have been nominated was an honor, but to have been nominated by Robert Langer, an internationally renowned engineer and my mentor, was doubly so. I am grateful to Dr. Langer, the MLK Jr. Planning Committee, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for this award.
In late January, I had the opportunity to participate in the Biomedical Engineering Distinguished Seminar Series at UC Davis. It was an honor to give a lecture at an institution with such outstanding faculty and staff, as well as interesting students. My lecture was entitled “Regenerative Engineering of Hard and Soft Musculoskeletal Tissues.” I thank UC Davis and Professor Kyriacos Athanasiou, Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, in particular, for inviting me to visit this great institution. I look forward to working with my colleagues at UC Davis in the future.