BME Senior Design Team

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I am so proud to announce that my BME Senior Design Team which includes Dwight Meggie, Julian Rose, Alexandra Stowe, Nathan Eckhardt won the first place certificate for the 2016 Senior Design Project Award. The project entitled “Harnessing Healing: Mechanical Isolation of Adipose Derived Stem Cells for Clinical Applications” sought to evaluate a mechanical method to rapidly harvest adipose tissue and adipose derived stem cells that can be used within a patient to help regenerate the cartilage. Currently, the most prevalent method to isolate adipose derived stem cells is utilizing an enzyme, collagenase, to breakdown the extracellular matrix but this has limited clinical applications. Thus there is a need for a mechanical isolation method. Several isolation methods were tested to isolate stem cells using fresh adipose tissue from rats. This project has the potential to improve human health as it is aimed at regenerating deteriorated cartilage which affects a multitude of patients.

The senior design project is an extremely important part of the BME curriculum at UConn. Through the program, our students work with sponsors or faculty advisors as part of a project aimed at designing and fabricating a new system in order to solve a real world problem. Each year during Senior Design Day, each team is eligible to win prizes based on a judging panel. The winners are announced at the end of the Senior Design Day.

Julian, Dwight, Alexandra, and Nathan, great job!

Visiting University of Sydney

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I had the great pleasure of visiting the University of Sydney and met with Dr. Chrzanowski Wojciech, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Pharmacy. Dr. Wojciech is a world-renowned scientist in biomaterials science and engineering. During the visit, I saw the extraordinary work that Dr. Wojciech’s team has been doing in biomaterials and drug delivery devices development. I also shared about our new HEAL project at IRE. Thank you to Dr. Wojciech for hosting me at the University of Sydney. I look forward to possible collaborations in the future.

Dr. Chrzanowski Wojciech and Dr. Cato Laurencin in Sydney, Australia

The Stan Simpson Show with Dr. Linda Barry

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

On April 16, Dr. Linda Barry, assistant director of CICATS, was invited to Fox 61 Hartford’s “Stan Simpson Show.” During the interview, Dr. Barry discussed CICATS’ novel Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) which increases diversity among the next generation of doctors and scientists. She also mentioned YIIP’s program for biomedical scientists, stressing the need for more students of color to pursue research to cure diseases rooted in the Black community. Thank you to UConn Health Communications and Kate Hayden for working to arrange such a great interview.

Watch the Video

AIMBE Distinguished Leadership Panel

AIMBE leadership panelOn April 3rd and 4th, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) hosted its annual 2-day meeting in Washington, DC. This event represents one of the premiere conferences where the leaders in medical and biological engineering from academia, industry, and government gather for cutting-edge programming, social events, and a chance to welcome the newest AIMBE fellows. This year, AIMBE highlighted the Distinguished Leadership Panel featuring the country’s leading experts in the field to discuss AIMBE’s next 25 years. I was honored to be on the panel with a number of distinguished leaders in the field, including Dr. Robert Nerem, Dr. Nicholas Peppas, and Dr. Kenneth Lutchen. I spoke about the organization’s need to be leaders in diversity, advocacy, and the promotion of next-generation science. The event was incredibly rewarding.

2016 Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., Travel Fellowship

I am pleased to announce the winners of the first Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., Travel Fellowship are Julian Rose and Dwight Meggie, both from UConn, and Robert De Loera from University of Chicago. This fellowship will allow them to attend the annual meeting of the Society for Biomaterials, and to become members of the Society. The goal of this initiative is to stimulate/encourage underrepresented minorities to pursue a career in the field of biomaterials. I am honored that the Society for Biomaterials chose to endow and name this traveling fellowship after me. I and my team have been committed to increasing the numbers of underrepresented minority people in science and we will continue to work tirelessly in the regard. I applaud the Society for Biomaterials in endorsing and supporting this commitment.

Julian is a senior studying Biomedical Engineering. As a member of the Honors Program who is interested in health professions, Julian participates in the John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholars Program. Dwight MeggieSince high school, Julian has conducted research in the Institute of Regenerative Engineering under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Lakshmi Nair and me, gaining valuable experience creating nanofiber scaffolds for regeneration. Julian has joined the 2016 Teach For America Corps and plans to attain his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in order to become a professor and conduct neural regenerative engineering research.

Dwight is also a senior in the Biomedical Engineering program. He is a certified pharmacy technician and an ambassador for the Academic Center for Exploratory Students (ACES) where he mentors academically undecided students. With a passion to attend graduate school, Dwight participated in the McNair Fellows program where he gained valuable hands-on shadowing research experience. After this research experience, Dwight joined the Institute for Regenerative Engineering where he conducts research under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Sangamesh Kumbar and me. His research entails enhancing the solubility of poorly soluble drugs using various techniques such as solid dispersion. Dwight plans on attending graduate school and ultimately transitioning to medical school.

Robert is a fourth year undergraduate at the University of Chicago majoring in the Biological Sciences with a specialization in immunology and minors in molecular engineering and statistics. His interests really revolve around translational research, and recently he’s become fascinated by the immune system and how we can take advantage of it in a variety of ways. Robert is currently working with Dr. Jeffrey Hubbell at the Institute for Molecular Engineering at University of Chicago, where his project is trying to induce antigen specific immunological tolerance by targeting antigens to the surface of red blood cells with a Fab antibody fragment and exploiting the tolerogenic nature of erythrocyte clearance.

Robert is fascinated by biotech startups. In the coming summer, Robert will be working at BioMotivr, a biotech accelerator company based in Cleveland, where he hopes to gain experience in the biotech startup scene. Robert plans to earn M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.

Congratulations, Julian, Robert, and Dwight!

Julian Rose
Julian Rose
Dwight Meggie
Dwight Meggie
Robert De Loera
Robert De Loera


CICATS’s Pipeline Programs

I am happy to report the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) has been successful in creating novel pipeline programs, including the M1 Mentoring Program and the Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP), which are increasing diversity among academic scientists and physicians. These programs also address health disparities with the goal of improving community health outcomes. On April 5, Dr. Linda Barry, assistant director of CICATS and director of the YIIP program, did a segment on Philadelphia’s WURD 900AM’s “The MOJO with Stephanie Renee.” During the interview, Dr. Barry shared details of the YIIP  program for biomedical scientists, stressing the need for more students of color to pursue research to cure diseases rooted in the Black community. Listen to the full interview.

I strongly believe the YIIP program, coupled with the commitment and drive of our scholars, has provided them the opportunity to takes steps towards their futures becoming the next generation of scientists and physicians. We have announced a call for applications for YIIP Scholars for the upcoming 2016-2017 academic year. The submission deadline is Monday, April 25 with the selected YIIP Scholars being announced in early May. For more information about YIIP, please contact Lana Angelo, YIIP Program Coordinator at

Healthcare and Science Stars of Tomorrow

Healthcare and Science Stars of Tomorrow Career symposiumOn March 12th, I gave the keynote speech at the 4th Annual Healthcare and Science Stars of Tomorrow Career symposium sponsored by the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society (TLJMS) at in Rivera Beach, FL. My talk focused on choosing careers in the various fields in healthcare and the sciences. This symposium attracted more than 800 ethnically diverse students from throughout Palm Beach County who came together with many healthcare and science professionals for career exploration. Thanks to Dr. Roger Duncan, TLJMS Board President, for inviting me. It was a great pleasure working with young people in Florida.

Healthcare and Science Stars of Tomorrow Career symposium

Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH

Last month, I was attending the 111th meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. This was my last ACD meeting since I was elected as a member of ACD in 2013. In an effort to ensure that NIH senior management is getting the most rigorous and experienced guidance, the NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., created the ACD made up of academic and health care industry leaders. As a committee member, my duty was to make recommendations concerning program development, resource allocation, NIH administrative regulation and policy, and other specific or general aspects of NIH policy. The committee members also review and make recommendations on applications for grants and cooperative agreements for research and training for projects that show promise of making valuable contributions to human knowledge. It was truly an honor to serve as a member of the ACD. It has been a great pleasure working with Dr. Collins and all members of ACD.

Advisory Committee to the Director committee

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., with NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., with NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

AESA Launch in Kenya

Dr. Cato LaurencinIn March, 2015, the African Union supported the establishment of the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) under the leadership of the African Academy of Sciences and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. AESA  will help drive Africa’s research agenda and build scientific capacity across the continent. The Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UK Department for International Development are funding the development of AESA and sharing their vision of supporting the next generation of African researchers who will help solve some of the continent’s greatest health and development challenges.

In early September, I was honored to receive an invitation to attend the AESA launch in Nairobi. I delivered a speech during which I read a letter from Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of NIH, in support of AESA. As a African-American, I am very proud Africa will play a key role in building a world-class scientific and programmatic unit.

India National Academy of Sciences

I am happy to announce that I have been elected a Foreign Fellow of the India National Academy of Sciences. I am one of only two Foreign Fellows elected this year, and the first from the University of Connecticut and UConn Health.

The citation reads “for his pioneering work in the field of material sciences.” I was recognized as a world leader in polymer-ceramic composites, and recognized for his contributions in tissue generation and bioengineering.

Election to the India National Academy of Sciences is a tremendous honor. I feel so fortunate to have had the support of all my colleagues, my students and the organizations I have worked with. My election is a tribute to their support.

The National Academy of Sciences in India was founded in 1930 and it is the oldest Science Academy in India. It is located in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. The main objective of the Academy was to provide a national forum for the publication of research work carried out by Indian scientists and to provide opportunities for exchange of views among them.