Author: mln00004

Dr. Cato Laurencin Delivers Edward Orton Jr. Memorial Lecture

On October 16, 2018, CICATS CEO Dr. Cato Laurencin gave the 2018 Edward Orton Jr. Memorial Lecture at the MS&T exhibition and meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Laurencin, a pioneer in regenerative engineering, spoke about the concept of convergence.

“We define Regenerative Engineering as a Convergence of Advanced Materials Science, Stem Cell Science, Physics, Developmental Biology, and Clinical Translation. Biomaterials play a centrally important role. Work in the area of musculoskeletal tissue regeneration has focused on a number of biomaterial technologies. Polymeric nanofiber systems create the prospect for biomimetics that recapitulate connective tissue ultrastructure allowing for the design of biomechanically functional matrices, or next generation matrices that create a niche for stem cell activity. Polymer and polymer-ceramic systems can be utilized for the regeneration of bone. Novel systems using graphene-ceramics provide new possibilities for bone regeneration. Hybrid matrices possessing micro and nano architecture can create advantageous systems for regeneration, while the use of classic principles of materials science and engineering can lead to the development of three dimensional systems suitable for functional regeneration of tissues of the knee. Through convergence of a number of technologies, with advanced materials science playing an important role, we believe the prospect of engaging future grand challenges is possible.”

For more information about the conference click here.

Leaders of CICATS Child Mental Health CIG Receive NIH Funding

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Damion Grasso, of CICATS Child Mental Health Core Interest Group (CIG), has recently received a large NIH fund (U01) related to early childhood and violence prevention research and intervention. Dr. Grasso’s work has been supported by several CICATS programs, including our Pre-K Scholar Program, CICATS CIG pilot fund, and CICATS science café program. His NIH fund info can be found here. Dr. Grasso serves as dual PI with Dr. Margaret Briggs-Gowan, who is co-leader of the Child Mental Health CIG with Grasso. Congratulations!

November Science Cafe: Genetic Engineering

The Connecticut Convergence Institute hosts free science cafes with the Kavli Foundation on different scientific topics. Our science cafe series aims to bring science to members of the community in an engaging and informal way.

Genetic engineering and synthetic biology are relatively new fields that are gaining media attention and causing great amounts of debate – both from the scientific and ethical points of view. Attendees at this November cafe will hear background knowledge for rational, evidence-based discussion of the topic. Representatives from UConn iGem will speak about their work and Mark Mimee of the MIT Synthetic Biology Group will speak more about the topic. Cafes are intended to be interactive, so audience questions and participation is greatly encouraged.

The Cafe speakers believe expert driven education is crucial to furthering the field and for cultivating public trust in researchers. They aim to discuss what challenges face synthetic biology, ethical risks posed by developing technologies in the field, and what the expansion of such research could have in store. Topics of discussion include, but are not limited to, genetically modified crops (GMOs), the possibility of genetic modifications in humans, biosecurity, novel applications of genetic technologies, and the development of newer and cheaper methods.

Topic: Genetic Engineering

When: Friday, November 16th, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Where: Hilltop Restaurant, 39 Adamec Rd, Willington, CT 06279

Cost: FREE

RSVP: Please use this link to RSVP for this science cafe.

For questions please contact


YIIP Scholars Meet Dr. Stacey Finley

CICATS Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) Scholars had a special meeting with Dr. Stacey Finley during Postdoc Research Day at UConn. Dr. Finley is Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the Gordon S. Marshall Early Career Chair at the University of Southern California. She provided the keynote address at the event and spoke about systems biology modelings ability to predict the dynamics of reaction networks in cancer.

Learn more about YIIP here.

CICATS Attends BioFabUSA 2018 Fall Summit

CICATS staff member Dr. Kevin Lo attended the 2018 BioFabUSA Fall Summit held at the Technology Center Auditorium in Manchester, New Hampshire. The summit is organized by the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) and this years topic was: Accelerating the Commercialization of Engineered Organs and Tissues.

Dr. Lakshmi Nair, Associate Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, UConn Health Center and Dr. Liisa T. Kuhn, Associate Professor & Associate Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Dental Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center, also attended the summit. Dr. Kuhn’s presentation was titled Standardization Strategies to Advance the Biofabrication Industry.

For more information about ARMI visit their website.

Dr. Cato Laurencin Selected One of the Top 100 Blacks in CT

CICATS is very proud to announce that our CEO, Dr. Cato Laurencin, was selected as one of the top 100 Blacks in Connecticut by the State Conference of NAACP Branches. He was honored at an event held at Foxwoods on Saturday, September 22nd.

“We are thrilled to honor Black men and women in Connecticut who are making a difference in our communities,” said NAACP State President Scot X. Esdaile. “This event gives us the opportunity to reflect on our important victories over the NAACP’s past 109 Years, strengthen old relationships and create new ones, as we prepare to continue to take on the constant challenges that face our people on a daily basis.”

To learn more you can watch this video from WTNH.

CICATS Participates in Urban League Backpack Event

CICATS was a proud sponsor of the Urban League of Greater Hartford Young Professionals annual back to school giveaway event. This event provides backpacks and back to school supplies to those in need. The event featured family fun activities as well as booths from various community organizations. CICATS provided an interactive table display that asked kids their ideas about how to regenerate a limb.

CICATS Welcomes Six New Young Innovative Investigator Program Scholars

The Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at the University of Connecticut announces the selection of six new Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) Scholars. These new YIIP Scholars are college graduates prepared to complete graduate level coursework and conduct supervised research in biomedical laboratories on the UConn Health campus.

YIIP, which began in 2013, aims to provide academic training to underrepresented minority students who are dedicated to pursuing careers as scientists and scholars in biological and biomedical science with the intent of developing the next generation of innovative biomedical scientists and increasing diversity among the pool of academic scientists. YIIP Scholars earn a stipend through their employment as UConn Graduate Assistants and tuition expenses associated with required graduate level courses are waived.

“YIIP is an essential program for CICATS,” said Dr. Cato Laurencin, CICATS CEO. “The program provides tools for Scholars to conduct research, succeed in an academic environment, and become competitive candidates for medical or graduate school. Increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in the fields of science and medicine is one of our primary goals as an Institute.”

This will be the third cohort of YIIP Scholars. The 2018 Scholars are:

  • John Garcia, University of Connecticut
  • Joshua Green, Southern Connecticut State University
  • Anisha Lewis, Brown University
  • Jaliyah Peterson, Spelman College
  • Kaussar Rahman, Mount Holyoke College
  • Savannah Samuel, Xavier University Of Louisiana

Mentoring is a key component of YIIP and each Scholar is currently in the process of selecting a UConn scientist to serve as their mentor. Additionally, YIIP Scholars have access to CICATS M1 Mentors Dr. Jennifer Cavallari of UConn Health, Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater of UConn, Storrs, and Dr. William Zempsky of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“Mentoring has proven highly beneficial for the success of underrepresented minority students across the entire academic pipeline,” said Lana Angelo, YIIP Program Coordinator. “Our program teaches the Scholars how to select the right mentor and lab placement, and we guide these students every step of the way during their time at the UConn Graduate School.”

To learn more about CICATS Young Innovative Investigator Program please visit our website.

CICATS BUILD Scholars Present Final Projects

Pictured: CICATS 2018 BUILD Scholars with CICATS CEO Dr. Cato Laurencin

The Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative provides awards to undergraduate institutions across the country to implement and study innovative approaches to engaging and retaining students from diverse backgrounds in biomedical research.  In 2014, the National Institute of Health (NIH) granted 10 five-year BUILD (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity) awards.  The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was one of the 10 core institutions to receive the award which led to the formation of the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity: Southwest Consortium of Health-Oriented Education Leaders and Research Scholars (BUILDing Scholars) program. Under the UTEP BUILD award, there are 13 Research partners, with UConn being the only academic institution from the northeast.

The third cohort of CICATS BUILD Scholars recently completed their summer research experiences. In addition to their summer research project, the Scholars attended weekly CICATS Summer Seminar Series lectures on topics such as research ethics and translational research, received additional personalized mentorship by M1 Mentors, and had the opportunity to present a poster of their research at UConn Health. The names and final presentations of our BUILD Scholars are as follows:

  • Luisa Castillo – laboratory of Dr. Leslie Caromile – “The role of Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA) on One Carbon Metabolism of Prostate Cancer”
  • Gabriel Garcia – laboratory of Dr. Cato Laurencin – “Fabrication and characterization of electrospun PLLA/CAP and PLGA/CAP nanofiber blends for tissue engineering applications”
  • Janet Olivas – laboratory of Dr. Steven Szcepanek – “Searching for the elusive mycoplasma pneumoniae vaccine”
  • Joshua Preciado – laboratory of Dr. David Steffens – “Cognitive Variability and Brain Aging in Late-Life Depression”
  • Tania Miramontes – laboratory of Dr. David Martinelli – “C1QL1 synaptic protein mediating hyperacusis‐like behavior”

For questions about the BUILD program, contact Lana Angelo at