Students and faculty gathered in Keller Auditorium last week to celebrate the research achievements of the students in the Skeletal Biology and Regeneration (SBR) Graduate Program, an area of concentration in the Biomedical Science Graduate Program at UConn Health.
The symposium included student poster presentations and an award ceremony to recognize the recipients of the prestigious William B. Upholt Achievement Award and Eric N. James Scholar Awards for outstanding academic scholarliness, research, leadership, service and advocacy.
“The goal of today’s event is to showcase the multi-disciplinary graduate student led research being conducted in SBR labs. Our vibrant and growing program is proud to celebrate the important contributions made by our students, both in and out of the lab,” said Dr. Rosa Guzzo, director of the SBR area of concentration.
The SBR program at UConn Health focuses on the cellular, molecular, and genetic processes related to skeletal development, diseases, injuries, and their regeneration. Research labs within SBR also focus on the biomechanical and material properties of skeletal components in health and in diseased states, as well as novel regenerative engineering approaches. The program, which includes over 25 research labs, spans both the Schools of Dental Medicine and Medicine.
“I like the dynamic environment of UConn, my lab, department, and the whole university,” says Hui Sun, student in the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program. “I get to work with so many different departments and people from across UConn, even many international faculty.”
Sun, who moved to Connecticut from China two years ago, shared her research on growth plate cartilage injury in children during the symposium. Sun is graduate student in the lab of Dr. Liisa Kuhn’s lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“I have freedom to explore research projects that interest me in different labs,” said Kai Clarke of the SBR program. Clarke, a second-year PhD student originally from Barbados, showcased her prior work from Dr. Alix Deymier’s lab on Dentinogenesis Imperfecta, a rare dental enamel disorder that affects 1 in 6,000-8,000 people worldwide. Clarke is currently pursuing PhD studies in the lab of Dr. Marja Hurley’s lab in the Department of Medicine.
The 2023 winner of the William B. Upholt Achievement Award, Adam Tanguay, was recognized for his research on inflammatory bone loss “PRG4 Inhibits In Vitro RANK-RANKL Interaction, Osteoclast Differentiation and Activity, and In Vivo Osteoclastogenesis.” Tanguay, a recent PhD graduate of the Biomedical Science program, was mentored by Dr. Tannin Schmidt in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Tanguay is now pursuing postdoctoral studies at Yale University.
The William B. Upholt Achievement Award was established to honor former SBR director Dr. William Upholt’s impact on research and graduate education, as well as his lifelong personal commitment to human rights, civic activism, and to the environment.
M.D./Ph.D. student Justin King was announced the winner of the 2022 Eric N. James Scholar Award for his research “Signaling pathways associated with Lgr6 to regulate osteogenesis fracture healing.” King’s mentor is associate professor Dr. Archana Sanjay in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.
The Eric N. James Scholar Award emphasizes service to underrepresented groups, as well as scholarly and research achievement, especially by members of underrepresented groups. The James family was also in attendance for the award ceremony. “Dr. James’ commitment to service is undeniably inspiring. His journey as a graduate student offers a blueprint of excellence that I’m keen to emulate” said Justin King.
The William B. Upholt and Eric N. James Scholar awards are made possible thanks to the generous 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 Cato T. Laurencin Institute of Regenerative Engineering.