Faculty Honors

Cato T. Laurencin Named 2023 Priestley Medalist

from UConn Today

Dr. Cato Laurencin
Scientist and engineer, Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, has been honored for seminal and lasting research benefiting humankind.

Cato T. Laurencin, the University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor at the University of Connecticut will receive the 2023 Priestley Medal, the highest honor of the American Chemical Society.

He is recognized as the leading international figure in polymeric biomaterials chemistry and engineering who has made extraordinary scientific contributions, while at the same time he has had profound contributions to improving human health through the results of his work. While trained in polymeric chemistry, Laurencin’s overall training is broad and interdisciplinary. He received his B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and simultaneously received his M.D., Magna Cum Laude from the Harvard Medical School. He then joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and opened a polymer chemistry research laboratory. At the same time he trained and became a board certified orthopaedic surgeon.

Dr. Laurencin produced seminal work on polymeric nanofiber chemistry technology for biomedical purposes, heralding the new field. He pioneered the understanding and development of polymer-ceramic systems for bone regeneration for which the American Institute of Chemical Engineers named him one of the 100 engineers of the modern era at its Centennial celebration. In a three decade collaboration with Professor Harry Allcock at Penn State, Laurencin worked in the development of polyphosphazenes for biomedical purposes. Dr. Laurencin has had breakthrough achievements in the areas of materials chemistry and engineering of soft tissue implants for regeneration of tissue including the development of the Laurencin-Cooper (LC) Ligament for anterior cruciate ligament regeneration (knee). The development of the LC Ligament was highlighted by National Geographic Magazine in its “100 Discoveries that Changed the World” edition.

In his latest work, Dr. Laurencin has pioneered a new field, Regenerative Engineering, described as the Convergence of areas such as nanomaterials science and chemistry. His work has described the chemistry of signaling molecules for tissue regeneration and he published this work in Plos One (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.01016272014). He demonstrated the ability these molecules in combination with polymeric materials chemistry to induce tissue regeneration.  In his most recent work he has used principles of polymer chemistry to create cell-like structures. This has allowed the creation of what is being considered a new class of stem cells: synthetic artificial stem cells (SASC). The work was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The impact of the new field has become clear. The NIH Awarded him their highest and most prestigious award, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for his field of Regenerative Engineering. The NSF awarded him their most transformative grant, the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Grant (EFRI) for Regenerative Engineering. Dr. Laurencin is the Editor-in-Chief of Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine, a journal published by Springer Nature. He is the Founder of the Regenerative Engineering Society (now a community of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers). The American Institute of Chemical Engineers Foundation created and endowed the Cato T. Laurencin Regenerative Engineering Founder’s Award honoring Dr. Laurencin’s work and legacy in this new field. He is the first individual to receive highest distinctions across science, engineering, medicine and technology for this work. In science, he received the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science awarded “for signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States”.  He was awarded both the highest/oldest honor of the National Academy of Engineering (the Simon Ramo Founders Award) and one of highest/oldest honors of the National Academy of Medicine (the Walsh McDermott Prize). And he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, our nation’s highest for technological achievement in ceremonies at the White House.  Most recently, he received the 2021 Spingarn Medal given for the “highest or noblest achievement by a living African American during the preceding year or years in any honorable field.”  The highest award of the NAACP, they stated “his exceptional career has made him the foremost engineer-physician-scientist in the world.”

Dr. Laurencin has also profoundly contributed to mentoring and fostering diversity. He has been responsible for the development of a generation of underrepresented engineers and scientists. In receiving the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award, it was noted that the majority of African-American faculty in bioengineering had been mentored by Laurencin. For his work in mentoring, he was honored by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring. Remarkably, he received the 2021 Hoover Medal given jointly by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), The purpose of the medal is “to recognize great, unselfish, non-technical services by engineers to humanity.” Dr. Laurencin’s extraordinary commitment to inclusion, equity and fairness along with his legendary work in mentoring lead to his selection.

Dr. Laurencin’s life, career and philosophy are contained in his recently published biography entitled “Success is What You Leave Behind,” published by Elsevier.

Cato Laurencin Honored by American Orthopaedic Association

from UConn Today

Dr. Cato Laurencin
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin is now added to the AOA Award Hall of Fame (AOA Photo/Kyle Klein).

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, University Professor at the University of Connecticut, has been honored by the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) with its Distinguished Contributions to Orthopaedics Award adding him to its AOA Award Hall of Fame.

Laurencin, the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UConn School of Medicine, was selected for the special recognition by his AOA member peers for his remarkable personal achievement and contributions to orthopaedic surgery.

He accepted the award the evening of June 15 at the AOA’s Annual Leadership Meeting at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. “I am so honored to accept the American Orthopaedic Association Distinguished Contributions to Orthopaedics Award and be recognized in the AOA Awards Hall of Fame. I feel so fortunate to be an orthopaedic surgeon.”

The AOA Distinguished Contributions to Orthopaedics (DCO) Award recognizes Laurencin for his personal achievement and broad contribution to the orthopaedic specialty, leadership, impact on patient care, and clinical and basic science research. The mission of the AOA is engaging the orthopaedic community to develop leaders, strategies and resources to guide the future of musculoskeletal care.

In addition to being a practicing sports medicine and shoulder surgeon consistently named to America’s Top Doctors list, Laurencin is a world-renowned surgeon-engineer-scientist and a pioneer of the field of regenerative engineering.

In fact, Laurencin is leading the first international effort ever for knee and limb engineering with his Hartford Engineering a Limb (HEAL) project which aims at regenerating a human limb by 2030. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation currently fund this research work through Laurencin’s large grant awards including the NIH Director’s Pioneer Grant Award and the National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Grant Award.

In orthopaedic surgery, Laurencin has been the first to win the “trifecta” of orthopaedic research lifetime awards: the Nicolas Andry Award from the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons, the Marshall R. Urist Award from the Orthopaedic Research Society, and the Kappa Delta Award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Nationally, 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 an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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. He is the recipient of the prestigious Spingarn Medal, the highest honor of the NAACP bestowed upon such Americans as Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, and Duke Ellington.

At UConn Laurencin is also a professor of chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering and serves as CEO of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. He has received the highest honors in engineering, medicine and science, including the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize given for “signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States.”  The American Institute of Chemical Engineers recently established the Cato T. Laurencin Regenerative Engineering Founder’s Award in honor of his breakthrough achievements in that field.

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.

Xiuling Lu Promoted to Professor

Xiuling Lu
Professor Xiuling Lu

(from UConn Today)

IMS Faculty member Xiuling Lu has been promoted to professor in the School of Pharmacy.  She joined the School of Pharmacy as an assistant professor in 2011. She has been active in the teaching and research programs as well as contributing to the service mission of the school and university. Lu’s research program is focused on nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems for improving therapeutic effectiveness utilizing biologically compatible approaches. Since her promotion to associate professor in 2017, Lu has established strong collaborations with cross-disciplinary external researchers and garnered external grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), American Cancer Society, pharmaceutical industry and the Center for Pharmaceutical Processing Research (CPPR). Her service contribution to the school and beyond were recognized when she received the 2019 Robert L. McCarthy Faculty Service Award.

Lu has taught classes in both the professional (Pharm.D.) and graduate (Ph.D.) programs and has trained more than 30 BS, MS and Ph.D. students, as well as 12 postdoctoral scholars and visiting scientists doing research in her lab. Her overall goals are to teach and train the next generation of pharmacy professionals and pharmaceutical scientists, serve the university and broader community promoting science and education, and to utilize formulation science and platform technologies to enable effective pharmaceutical products for improving human health.

Seven IMS Faculty Members Promoted

Faculty Promotions 2022
(l-r) Drs. Yupeng Chen, Elena Dormidontova, Ali Gokirmak, Ying Li, Xiuling Lu, Thanh Nguyen, Arash Zaghi

The Office of the Provost recently announced the award of promotion and/or tenure to 69 faculty across the Storrs and regional campuses. Seven IMS faculty members were among them.

Evaluations for promotion, tenure, and reappointment apply the highest standards of professional achievement in scholarship, teaching, and service for each faculty member evaluated. Applications for promotion and tenure are reviewed at the department level, school or college level, and finally at the Office of the Provost before recommendations are forwarded to the Board of Trustees.

Newly promoted IMS faculty members include:

From the School of Engineering

Promotion to Associate Professor and Tenure

Promotion to Professor

Tenure as Associate Professor

From the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Promotion to Professor

From the School of Pharmacy

Promotion to Professor

IMS congratulates each of these faculty members for their excellence and dedication.

Four IMS Faculty Members Receive OVPR Scholarship Facilitation Award

Scholarship Facilitation Award Winners
(l-r) Drs. Farhad Imani, Jasna Jankovic, Tomoyasu Mani, and Luyi Sun

The Scholarship Facilitation Fund program provides up to $2,000 to UConn faculty across all disciplines. The OVPR offers the competitive awards to promote, support, and enhance research, scholarship, and creative endeavors across UConn Storrs and regional campuses.

Four IMS faculty members were among the 67 faculty named as recipient of the award for Spring 2022:

  • Farhad Imani, Mechanical Engineering
    Brain-inspired Hyperdimensional Computing for Empowering Cognitive Additive Manufacturing
  • Jasna Jankovic, Material Science and Engineering
    STEAM Tree Earth Day Celebration
  • Tomoyasu Mani, Chemistry
    Stereoselective Control of Electron Transfer Reactions
  • Luyi Sun, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
    Publication in PNAS, a Premium Journal for Maximum Impact

IMS Congratulates these faculty members on this accomplishment.

Four IMS Faculty Members Elected to CASE

Hebert-Kumbar-Nieh-Teschke
(l-r) Drs. Rainer Hebert, Sangamesh Kumbar, Mu-Ping Nieh, and Carolyn Teschke

The Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) announced the election of 35 new members for 2022 who the organization describe as leading experts in science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and technology.  12 of those newly elected members are UConn faculty and four are faculty members of the Institute of Materials Science (IMS).

Rainer Hebert, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Director of Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Center, Associate Director of the Institute of Materials Science

Sangamesh G. Kumbar, Associate Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering Health

Mu-Ping Nieh, Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, UConn School of Engineering and Institute of Materials Science

Carolyn Teschke, Professor and Interim Department Head, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Chemistry

The new members will be introduced at the Academy’s 47th Annual Meeting to be held virtually on May 26, 2022.  Read the full UConn Today story