A Woman of Innovation

Paiyz MikaelI am very excited to announce that Paiyz Mikael has been selected as one of the finalists for the 2013 Women of Innovation Awards. Every year, the Connecticut Technology Council recognizes women for their innovations, mentoring, leadership in technology, and contributions to the STEM field. These awards also include high-school and college-level students.

Paiyz’s graduate study was supported by a prestigious National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowship for two years. As a GK-12 Fellow, she was embedded at Hartford’s A.I. Prince Technical High School, where she worked closely with teachers and students to bring fun, hands-on activities to the classroom that reinforced the applications of science and technology while exciting students in STEM subjects. She introduced projects including the design and construction of a working greenhouse, compost and recycling apparatuses, as well as a moon buggy design for a NASA competition. Paiyz also integrated her own research project into the classroom activities. The students learned how to make microspheres using items available at home. These projects immerse students in science lessons involving energy, efficiency and sustainability. Under her guidance, a Prince Tech student team won a $5,000 award from a local energy company to establish a better, greener recycling system. Prince Tech serves a population underrepresented in engineering: 95% minority students and 51% females. As a recent immigrant from Iraqi Kurdistan, Paiyz has been embraced by Prince Tech students. She is passionate about mentoring and helping them realize their potential. She is proudest of her success in initiating a mentoring collaboration between A.I. Prince Tech students and children in a nearby charter elementary/middle school. This partnership fosters strong mentoring skills among the high school students while providing STEM support for the younger children. Above all, Paiyz is most excited about her role as a mother to a beautiful 6-year-old daughter, Rojan; and she truly believes that raising and mentoring children is a privilege and an honor.

Paiyz Mikael in the laboratory

Paiyz joined the Institute for Regenerative Engineering under the guidance of Dr. Syam P. Nukavarapu in the Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of Connecticut. She focused on developing mechanically superior polymeric-carbon nanotube composite scaffolds for the regeneration of segmental bone defects. Prior to that, she graduated with honors from Southern Connecticut State University where she completed her thesis project titled “Study of chemotherapy responses in transformed murine cell line containing a temperature-sensitive mutation in the p53 gene.” Currently, Paiyz is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Material Science and Engineering program here at UConn. Her research focuses on exploiting the regeneration of bone tissue through a process that naturally takes place during fetal development (Endochondral ossification). For this, she is working on developing a polymeric-hydrogel hybrid scaffold system that is mechanically compatible with bone; furthermore, the hydrogel phase acts as a natural extracellular matrix on which cells will reside and differentiate further.