Students and faculty gathered in Keller Auditorium for the first-ever poster presentation and awards ceremony to highlight the research achievements and accomplishments of students in the Skeletal Biology and Regeneration (SBR) Area of Concentration in the Biomedical Science Graduate Program at UConn Health.
Two highly prestigious awards—the William B. Upholt Achievement Award and Eric N. James Scholar Award— were announced at the ceremony after the student poster presentations.
The SBR program at UConn Health focuses on the cellular, molecular, and genetic processes related to skeletal development, diseases, injuries, and their regeneration. The program, which includes over 25 research labs, spans both the Schools of Dental Medicine and Medicine.
“The multidisciplinary research and broad expertise within SBR is a strength of our program,” said Dr. Rosa Guzzo, director of the SBR program, in her opening remarks. “There is vast richness and diversity within SBR research.”
Dr. Bruce Liang, dean of the UConn School of Medicine and interim CEO of UConn Health, in his remarks congratulating the students noted that the program is a “true collaborative effort” at UConn Health.
Dr. Caroline Dealy, associate professor in the Department of Craniofacial Sciences and the alumni and awards committee chair for the SBR program, introduced the William B. Upholt Achievement award and reflected fondly on Upholt’s research and leadership at UConn Health.
“Scientifically, his work was always on the cutting edge,” Dealy said. “He was a leader in developing programs, establishing them, keeping them going, and being the glue holding them together.”
Upholt’s wife, Mary Lee Morrison Upholt, was also in attendance.
The 2020 winner of the William B. Upholt Achievement Award, Dr. Elise Pitman, delivered virtual remarks from her postdoctoral program in Scotland. Pitman discussed her research including treating autoimmune colitis and colorectal cancer, as well as her avid role as a student advocate for students in research fields.
The 2021 winner, Dr. Laura Doherty, discussed her thesis in fracture healing using mass models, as well as her passion of supporting women in aviation.
The William B. Upholt Achievement Award was established to honor Upholt’s impact on research and graduate education, as well as his lifelong personal commitment to human rights, civic activism, and to the environment.
Dr. Lakshmi Nair, associate director of the SBR program, professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Connecticut Convergence Institute, and Dr. Marja Hurley, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Orthopedic surgery and associate dean of the Health Career Opportunity Programs at UConn Health, introduced the Eric N. James Scholar Award. Nair and Hurley both recounted Dr. Eric N. James’ time at UConn Health and his involvement mentoring young men of color.
“Eric was humble, genuine, and committed to education, research, scholarship, and community service. He was always willing to assist others. I am truly pleased we are able to honor Dr. James in this manner,” said Hurley.
James’ family was also in attendance for the award ceremony.
The winner of the 2021 Eric N. James Scholar Award, Rosalie Bordett, accepted the award and talked about her desire to help students discover their passion for science and make academia a more welcoming place for students. Bordett also discussed her experience serving as mentor for high school, undergraduate students and her desire to reach students in underrepresented backgrounds.
The Eric N. James Scholar Award honors James’ scientific achievements and reflects his deep commitment to helping others through teaching and mentorship. Consistent with James’ mission to promote education and training of diverse individuals, the Award emphasizes service to underrepresented groups, as well as scholarly and research achievement, especially by members of underrepresented groups.
The William B. Upholt and Eric N. James Scholar awards are made possible by donations from SBR alumni and faculty, private donors, and the School of Dental Medicine; additional support for this event was provided by the UConn Foundation and the Connecticut Convergence Institute.
The full list of award winners is below:
2020 William B. Upholt Achievement Award
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Kepeng Wang, Department of Immunology
2021 William B. Upholt Achievement Award
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Archana Sanjay, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
The 2021 William B. Upholt Achievement Award nominees
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Wendy Mok, Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Emily Germain-Lee, Department of Pediatrics
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Tannin Schmidt, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Alix Deymier, Department of Biomedical Engineering
2021 Eric N. James Scholar Award
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Sangamesh Kumbar, Departments of Orthopedic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science
2021 runner-up of the 2021 Eric N. James Scholar Award
Ph.D. thesis mentor: Dr. Marc Hansen, Departments of Medicine, Genetics and Developmental Biology