Joint Symposium Underscores Value of Interdisciplinary Health Research

The event brings together researchers from across UConn's campuses and beyond to explore new approaches to improve human health

man and woman discuss research poster

The second Joint Nutritional Sciences, Metabolism, and Immunology Symposium brought together UConn faculty members, researchers, and students from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), School of Pharmacy, the School of Medicine, and guests for research presentations and a poster session in the Innovation Partnership Building. (Jason Sheldon/UConn Photo)

The second Joint Nutritional Sciences, Metabolism, and Immunology Symposium was held at the Innovation Partnership Building at UConn Tech Park. The day-long event brought together the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), the School of Pharmacy, and the School of Medicine for research presentations, a poster session, and networking opportunities.

The symposium centered on the latest research in kidney and liver health, including discussion on the role obesity and aging play in the function of these organs and exploring possible treatments and interventions to improve health outcomes. In addition to UConn researchers, presenters included faculty members from the University of Arizona and McMaster University in Canada.

Ji-Young Lee, professor and head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences in CAHNR, was one of the main event organizers.

“Sharing our knowledge and research regularly is key to solving complex problems in preventing and treating disease and promoting beneficial health outcomes,” says Lee. “We all share areas of research that have the potential to create knowledge from adopting new approaches and exploring different ways of improving human health.”

Lee has led efforts to establish other interdisciplinary research groups across UConn’s campuses, including the UConn Genetic and Mechanistic Metabolism Group. She is also a member of the Immuno-Cardio Group with UConn Health.

The first joint symposium of the group was held in 2019. Reconvening for this second gathering was long delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through an in-person event, researchers from different fields shared their latest work and sought new avenues of collaboration in both research and industry.

Special guest Roger Newton ’74 MS, ’05 (HON), co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Espervita Therapeutics joined the symposium as well. Newton, who earned his master’s degree focusing on the regulation of lipid/cholesterol metabolism and was awarded an honorary degree in 2005, has advocated for this type of interdisciplinary health research at UConn for many years.

“This is something I’ve been waiting for,” says Newton. “We’re getting together here at UConn to work in an integrated way. I’m a nutritional biochemist, and this event gets everyone talking to different people with unique specialties in pharmaceuticals, nephrology, etc. to learn. It’s wonderful to get everyone in one place at one time. There’s going to be a lot of discussion about who we are, what we’re doing, and where we’re going.”

Newton and his wife, Coco, have supported a number of projects in the Department of Nutritional Sciences over the years through the Esperance Family Foundation, including establishing a fellowship for a joint MD/Ph.D. program that connected CAHNR and UConn’s School of Medicine.

Newton delivered opening remarks along with CAHNR Dean Indrajeet Chaubey, School of Pharmacy Dean Philip Hritcko, and Interim Vice President for Research, Innovation and  Entrepreneurship Pamir Alpay. They shared Newton’s enthusiasm for the potential collaborations the symposium could bring to UConn.

“The symposium was not just about that day,” says Chaubey. “It serves as a catalyst that goes to the core of the land grant mission of UConn. By bringing together faculty, industry, state agencies, and other partners, we can take the knowledge we create and directly help the people of Connecticut and beyond.”

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