News

The Just Us Making Produce (JUMP) Program Expands Community Aeroponic Gardens with Several New Garden Towers at the Wilson-Gray YMCA in Continued Effort to Address Food Insecurity

 

The Connecticut Convergence Institute’s Just Us Making Produce (JUMP) Program has expanded its aerponic garden and healthy lifestyle education initiatives in partnership with the Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center in Hartford. Last week, the YMCA unveiled their UConn Health Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering Community garden. The garden, one of several gardens implemented by Dr. Helen Wu and staff at the Convergence Institute, is run in conjunction with the staff and members at the YMCA. The program aims to address the rise in food insecurity in Hartford as a result of the pandemic. The gardens provide access to fresh vegetables that may not otherwise be available at local stores.

According to Valenica Williams, Executive Director of the Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center, “This is our way of providing resources in what we consider a neighborhood of a food desert: lack of affordable, fresh, healthy options for our families. So with our partnership with UConn’s Convergence Institute, we are able to provide fresh produce and an educational resource piece where we teach from seed to the table how to create a healthier lifestyle.”

In 2018, The Connecticut Convergence Institute partnered with the Aetna Foundation to create a community engagement partnership, entitled: “The Connecticut Community Health Science Initiative”, with the goal being to improve the quality of life for those who are underserved in our state.  Under this initiative, the Institute created its landmark healthy lifestyle community program, JUMP, or Just Us Moving and Just Us Making Produce. The JUMP Program employs an experiential learning model that gets community members involved in a meaningful way. JUMP not only teaches individuals the importance of balanced eating, but it also stresses the importance of an active lifestyle while fostering the idea that health can be achieved at any size.

The JUMP-YMCA programming is the fourth community partnership established in the Hartford area. Last year, gardens were created at the Urban League of Greater Hartford, as well as the Parkville Senior Center, and Parkville Elementary school. The JUMP Program hopes to continue to expand with new partnerships with other Hartford based community organizations. If you are interested in bringing the JUMP Program to your organization, contact Karishma Pinto at kapinto@uchc.edu.

Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering Fellow in Health Disparities Elimination and Community Action

Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering

Fellow in Health Disparities Elimination and Community Action

Postdoctoral Fellow position in Health Disparities

Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut is seeks to hire a full time, Postdoctoral Research Fellow position in the CT Convergence Institute.

The Health Disparities Fellow will work closely with the Chief Executive Officer and Assistant Director of the Connecticut Convergence Institute on Health Disparities related initiatives and will contribute to research and community engagement initiatives associated with the Connecticut Convergence Institute Health Disparities Core Projects. In this capacity, the fellow will work on a new National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Medicine, Engineering and Science.  The fellow will be engaged part time to work with the development of Perspective papers and surveys related to issues facing Black Men and Black Women in Medicine, Engineering and Science.  The Fellow will also work with members of the Roundtable on formulation of follow on projects from ideas generated from the Roundtable.  In addition, the Fellow will work on community health disparities projects funded by an Aetna Foundation Community Partnership Grant to the Connecticut Convergence Institute. The Fellow will also serve on the editorial board of the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, published by Springer Nature and having its home at the Connecticut Convergence Institute at UCONN.

The successful candidate must hold a terminal professional degree (e.g. Ph.D. M.D., and/or M.P.H.) and have demonstrated potential for success based on scholarly record and demonstrated interest in health disparities, and have the ability to work in collaboration with clinical, translational and/or basic scientists.

A curriculum vitae and a cover letter (in pdf files) and questions regarding this search should be directed to Dr. Lakshmi Nair, Associate Director of the Connecticut Convergence Institute at nair@uchc.edu.

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

https://naacpevents.org/

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.

OVERVIEW

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.

ELIGIBILITY

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 langelo@uchc.edu.
  • 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 langelo@uchc.edu.

 

For more information, contact Lana Angelo, Educational Programs Manager, at langelo@uchc.edu.

New Grant in Regenerative Engineering Awarded

New Grant to Train Future Scientists in Regenerative Engineering

Awarded to the Connecticut Convergence Institute

 

The novel doctoral T32 Program, Regenerative Engineering of Musculoskeletal Tissues: A Convergence Doctoral Training Program has been funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases NIAMS (T32 AR079114) for 5 years (2021-2026). The T32 Program goals are to educate, support and enhance the training of individuals dedicated to careers as independent clinical translational and basic scientists in regenerative engineering.

 

The program offers inter-disciplinary research training at the University of Connecticut (UConn) combining the fields of biomedical science and engineering. Faculty at the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering who led this grant were Dr. Cato Laurencin (Principal Investigator), Dr. Gualberto Ruaño (Co-Investigator), and Dr. Lakshmi Nair (Co-Investigator).

 

Regenerative Engineering is defined as the Convergence of advanced materials science, stem cell science, physics, developmental biology and clinical translation for the regeneration of complex tissues and organ systems. Musculoskeletal regeneration is a field ripe for an inventive approach based on convergence to address challenging issues, advance technology and further fundamental knowledge for therapeutic applications. At the center of the Convergence approach is the understanding that new solutions in regeneration will take place through an ‘un-siloed’ approach.

 

The T32 Program will enroll 2 Ph.D. or dual degree students per year and support each for 2 years of Graduate School. The students will be drawn from graduate programs at UConn Health and UConn Storrs. The students will apply for T32 support at the end of Year 1 of their graduate programs to be supported for Years 2-3. The T32 Program will offer trainees a broad level of expertise in research and instruction based on the research, educational, and clinical 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 T32 Program has preceptorship commitments from 20 distinguished faculty across UConn departments (including Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Computer Science, Genetics and Genome Sciences, Materials Science, Mechanical Engineering, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Oral Health, Orthopedic Surgery). This eminent group of investigators, who are well funded and published, will provide the primary research training and serve as role models for doctoral trainees.

 

Regenerative Engineering welcomes ideas and research across a gamut of disciplines. 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. T32 Program administration through the Connecticut Convergence Institute will provide the experience to recruit diverse trainees, including minorities, and implement the curriculum.

 

Disorders of the musculoskeletal system with advancing age or due to injury and trauma are among the most debilitating to the human body and costly to the healthcare system with disability. Novel treatments will require convergence of molecular, cellular, and organismic research through interdisciplinary integration of biomedical science and engineering. This T32 Program is based on the unique concept of training Ph.D. candidates in the realm of scientific convergence applied to the field of regenerative engineering to enable fundamental and translational discoveries

Science Café on Innovation and Inventorship

The Innovation and Inventorship Science Cafe took place on Friday, September 29th at the Lyceum in downtown Hartford. Facilitated by Dr. Lakshmi Nair, a panel consisting of Dr. Greg Gallo, Dr. Mostafa Analouri, and Mr. Paul Parker discussed their roles in the process of innovation and invention at UConn, as well as the programs and services available in their offices. Over 60 faculty members, researchers, students, engineers, clinicians, and staff attended the event. Through engaging conversation and audience questions, the Science Cafe was well-received and generated positive feedback from attendees.

The event was made possible through the support of faculty and staff, the Office of the Vice President for Research at UCONN, and especially, The Kavli Foundation.

CICATS announces new cohort of the M1 Mentorship Award Program

The Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at UConn, a cross-university translational institute, has announced its next cohort of the M1 Mentorship Award Program.

The aim of the M1 Mentorship Award is to develop a cadre of accomplished investigators who will participate in cultivating an academic environment that elevates mentorship to a discipline with consistently high standards and practices. The program focuses on the recruitment and mentorship of underrepresented students at all stages of the academic pipeline.

The M1 Award recipients, selected through a peer review process, include:

Jennifer Cavallari Sc.D., CIH

Jennifer Cavallari, Sc.D., CIH Dr. Cavallari is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Medicine and Healthcare and the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at UConn Health. Dr. Cavallari is an epidemiologist and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). She received her doctorate in Environmental Health from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) in 2007 where she also completed a post-doctoral fellowship.

Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater, M1 Mentor

Nicholas Leadbeater, Ph.D. Dr. Leadbeater is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at the UConn Storrs campus. A native of the United Kingdom, he received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nottingham and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Bill Zempsky, M1 Mentor

William Zempsky, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Zempsky is a professor of Pediatrics at the UConn School of Medicine and is the Head of the Division of Pain and Palliative Medicine at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Zempsky received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University.  He graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and completed a pediatric residency on the Harriet Lane Service at Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

“I am pleased to welcome this next cohort of M1 Mentors, comprised of yet another talented group of faculty representing UConn and UConn Health,” said Dr. Cato Laurencin, chief executive officer, CICATS. “Mentorship is a fundamental component of student success, and I look forward to the impact from our mentors across CICATS and the UConn community.”

The inaugural cohort of the M1 Mentorship Award Program included Dr. Anne Delany and Dr. Syam Nukavarapu, UConn Health faculty, and Dr. Elaine Choung-Hee Lee, a faculty member from UConn Storrs.

Each M1 Award recipient utilizes program funds to guide and lead the development of their mentees towards becoming academic scientists. The activities focus on promoting the development of these students starting in high school through to junior faculty. CICATS aims to expand the M1 Mentorship Award Program nationally, using this model to promote pipeline development at other academic institutions.

For additional information about the M1 Award, please contact Lana Angelo at langelo@uchc.edu, or visit our website at http://cicats.uconn.edu/m1-mentorship-award-program/.

CICATS’ Science Cafes highlighted in the Hartford Business Journal

In the May 8 edition of the Hartford Business Journal, staff writer John Stearns highlighted the CICATS Science Cafe concept and how it played a role in funding the research of Dr. Pramod Srivastava.

Science Cafes, which are hosted by CICATS’ Core Interest Groups, are informal events designed to engage the public with interactive discussions in the topic area of the host CIG, and increase opportunities for collaborative research. To learn more about CIGs or Science Cafes, please click here or contact Dr. Kevin Lo.

Here’s the full article from the Hartford Business Journal.