News and Info

NAACP to Present Prestigious Spingarn Medal to UConn’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin at 112th Annual Convention

Laurencin joins such previous Springarn recipients as Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, George Washington Carver, and more

Professor Cato T. Laurencin of the University of Connecticut is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Spingarn Medal, the highest honor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“This is the most iconic award of the NAACP,” says Laurencin, who serves as the University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UConn.

“I am so blessed and honored to receive this amazing recognition, and join the historic ranks of my fellow Spingarn Medal honorees that began its legacy 106 years ago,” says Laurencin, also of UConn School of Medicine.

Laurencin is the first engineer to receive the Spingarn medal honor, the fourth physician, and the fifth scientist. Some of the past Spingarn Medal winners include George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Duke Ellington, Charles Drew, and Maya Angelou.

Named after the late J.E. Spingarn–then NAACP Chairman of the Board of Directors– this gold medal, awarded annually since 1915, honors “the man or woman of African descent and American citizenship who shall have made the highest achievement during the preceding year or years in any honorable field.” The award is intended both to draw the attention of the general public to African American achievement and to inspire young African Americans.

Laurencin’s seminal and singular accomplishments in tissue regeneration, biomaterials science, and nanotechnology, and regenerative engineering, a field he founded, have made him the foremost engineer-physician-scientist in the world. His breakthrough achievements have resulted in transformative advances in improving human life.  His fundamental contributions to materials science and engineering include the introduction of nanotechnology into the biomaterials field for regeneration.

“Dr. Laurencin’s contribution to furthering humanity’s collective achievement in the field of science and engineering is extraordinary,” says Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP. “As a pioneer of the new field, regenerative engineering, he is shaping the landscape of cell-based therapy, gene therapy, and immunomodulation. Named as one of the 100 Engineers of the Modern Era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, he has received countless awards for his transformative work. The NAACP is proud to present Dr. Laurencin with our highest recognition and join the chorus of those that realize what his work means globally.”

Laurencin is the first surgeon in history to be elected to all four national academies: the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Inventors. He is the first person in history to receive the oldest/highest award of the National Academy of Medicine (the Walsh McDermott Medal) and the oldest/highest award of the National Academy of Engineering (the Simon Ramo Founder’s Award). In science, he received the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize given “for signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States.”  In technology and inventorship, Laurencin is a laureate of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, America’s highest honor for technological achievement, awarded by President Barack Obama at the White House.

Laurencin received his BSE in chemical engineering from Princeton University, his MD, magna cum laude from the Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering/biotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the CEO of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering.

As the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP remains a fixture in fighting for civil rights and social justice for all. Through its annual awards, it highlights the achievements of individuals and our branches, trailblazers who are actively on the front lines driving progress in business, law, education, and other sectors. In honoring their work and commitment, the NAACP aims to further the legacy of its organization, while championing future generations of civil rights leaders.

112th NAACP Virtual National Convention

The 112th NAACP National Convention, held virtually from July 7-14

New T32 Doctoral Training Program in Regenerative Engineering

Application Open for New T32 Doctoral Training Program in Regenerative Engineering

The Connecticut Convergence Institute has been awarded the T32 Program Grant Regenerative Engineering of Musculoskeletal Tissues: A Convergence Doctoral Training Program by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS, AR079114). This T32 Program aims to educate, support and enhance the training of individuals dedicated to careers as independent translational and basic scientists in regenerative engineering. The program offers inter-disciplinary research training at UConn Health and UConn Storrs combining the fields of biomedical science and engineering.


Trainees will be selected from current UConn graduate students at UConn Health and UConn Storrs who have completed their first year of graduate studies. The T32 Program will offer trainees a broad level of expertise in research and instruction based on the research and educational experiences of the biomedical and engineering faculty who serve as preceptors. Trainees will become experts in regenerative engineering and its foundations to work towards the alleviation of human disease and musculoskeletal injuries by means of tissue regeneration. The Program strengths include its interdisciplinary and collaborative research in biomedical science and engineering, interactions with diverse trainees and faculty, training in contemporary research methodologies, and experienced preceptors.


All applicants must:

  • Be a citizen or Permanent Resident of the United States.
  • Be current UConn Health or UConn Storrs graduate student who has completed their first year of PhD studies.
  • Demonstrate high motivation and potential to become a basic, clinical or translational scientist with an interest in the field of Regeneration.
  • Have a high probability of fulfilling the educational goals of this program.

APPLICATION PROCESS [Submission Deadline: July 21, 2021]

  • Applicants will request an application package directly by email to Lana Angelo at
  • Application Documents
    1. Predoctoral Biosketch: This is the key document to be used for this application. Follow the directions provided in the Applicant Predoctoral Biosketch Guidance Document. (Failure to complete all sections of the biosketch will result in disqualification.)
    2. Letter of Recommendation: The letter must be from a current UConn Health or UConn Storrs faculty member with whom the applicant has worked closely in their first year of doctoral program research. A recommendation from a lab rotation mentor, major advisor, or advisory committee member is suggested.
  • Applicants will submit their application package directly by email to Lana Angelo at


For more information, contact Lana Angelo, Educational Programs Manager, at

CICATS Core Interest Group Hosts Science Café

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

The UConn Partnership for Excellence in Structural Biology held “Structural Biology Meets Drug Discovery” on September 11 at the Nathan Hale Inn on the UConn Storrs campus. The keynote speaker was Dr. Jonathan Moore, senior research fellow and vice president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston. Dr. Moore’s insightful remarks on the intersection of structural biology and drug discovery also touched on targeting disordered proteins as a new mode of action. Dr. Dennis Wright of UConn Pharmacy briefed attendees on the PITCH and NPDD academic drug-discovery initiatives at UConn. The Science Café attracted a broad cross section of interested faculty and administrators who engaged in a lively discussion of challenges and opportunities.

CICATS Core Interest Group Hosts Science Cafe

CICATS Core Interest Group Hosts Science Cafe

CICATS Core Interest Group Hosts Science Cafe

Annual Laurencin Labs Dinner

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

Laurencin Labs Annual Dinner 2016On Friday, July 22, the Institute for Regenerative Engineering held our 29th Annual Laurencin Labs dinner at the Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford. Over 60 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members attended. Also attending were the local high-school and college students who are spending part of their summers in the lab. The evening celebrated the outstanding research conducted in our laboratory during 2016 and included a discussion of the work planned for 2017.

Thank you to those who helped make this the dinner meeting so successful.

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


I am very honored to have been featured in “Grow Your Own” in the December 2015 issue of Prism magazine. I had the pleasure of discussing the HEAL Project with Prism’s team. Please check out the article at

Prism is the American Society for Engineering Education’s award-winning publication. The popular magazine covers engineering in higher education throughout the United States. The magazine is read reaches engineering faculty members, administrators, and students in all disciplines of engineering. Thank you to Mary Lord, the deputy editor of Prism as well as Prism’s editorial team for featuring me.

The HEAL Project Discussion on “The Stan Simpson Show”

Dr. Cato Laurencin and Stan SimpsonLast month, Stan Simpson, host of “The Stan Simpson Show” on Fox CT, invited me to be a guest on his show for the second time. During the interview, I explained our current research initiative named “Hartford Engineering A Limb” (HEAL) at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. The project’s goal is to regenerate a human knee in seven years and a whole limb in fifteen. The field of regenerative engineering is still in its infancy, and through the HEAL project, we are hoping to utilize this new approach to bring life-changing breakthroughs to patients. The interview can be seen on the web, please visit the following link:

Chinese Academy of Engineering

I am one of a select group of engineers from around the world to have been elected a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), one of the most prestigious academic institutions in China. A CAE academician title is the highest Chinese academic achievement in Engineering and Technology and a lifelong honor. The induction ceremony will be held in Beijing in June 2016. I am extremely honored to join these distinguished scholars. It will inspire me to make more contributions in science and engineering in the years to come.

Renowned Inventor Dean Kamen Visits UConn

On November 7, Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway PT, visited UConn for the first time. He delivered the Lawrence G. Raisz, M.D. Lectureship, an event hosted by the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) and UConn School of Engineering in the Student Union of the Storrs campus. Over 300 people, including students, faculty, researchers, public officials and community-based organizations attended. In his keynote entitled “Innovation: Past, Present and Future”, Dean urged the young people present to keep following their dreams and shared an overview of projects he and his engineers at DEKA Research have been working on. He also discussed FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a program for students to get them interested in science, technology, and engineering he and his partners started in 1989 and continue supporting today.

In addition to the Segway, Dean invented the iBOT all-terrain wheelchair as well as several biomedical devices. He has also developed a water purification system he hopes will help improve living standards in developing countries He has received the U.S. Medal of Technology and the ASME Medal, the American Society of Mechanical Engineer’s highest honor. Dean holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents.

As the CEO of CICATS, I thank everyone at CICATS for their hard work organizing Dean’s visit over the past months. I also thank the School of Engineering at UConn Storrs for co-hosting this event.

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.