UConn Today https://today.uconn.edu Wed, 06 Dec 2023 12:30:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.3.1 UConn’s Growing Research Strength Reflected in HERD Survey Rankings https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/uconns-growing-research-strength-reflected-in-herd-survey-rankings/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/uconns-growing-research-strength-reflected-in-herd-survey-rankings/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2023 12:30:25 +0000 Matt Engelhardt https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207630 UConn’s rankings have leapt in the National Science Foundation (NSF) survey that measures colleges and universities according to their expenditures in research and development.

NSF’s Center for Science and Engineering Statistics surveyed more than 900 schools across the country that spent more than $150,000 in research expenditures during the 2022 fiscal year. The data are compiled into the annual Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey.

In the most recent survey, UConn jumped to 79th in overall expenditures, moving up nine spots from 88th in the 2021 fiscal year. The University’s total research expenditures in fiscal year 2022 increased more than $64 million over the previous year, hitting a record $367.6 million invested in research and development.

“The increase in funding and advance in the rankings reflect our progress in prioritizing research at UConn,” says Pamir Alpay, UConn’s vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. “Across our schools and colleges, our success in securing federal and state grants is a testament to the strength of our faculty. Combined with the University’s investment, we are seeing UConn gain in competitiveness compared to other premier research institutions across the country.”

Psychology expenditures at UConn are exceptionally strong, ranking 7th in the nation among all institutions, public and private.

HERD Graph
UConn’s HERD ranking rose in the 2022 fiscal year as the University increased research expenditures at both UConn and UConn Health.

UConn’s significant rise in federal expenditures, the result of awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NSF, and other federal agencies, helped drive strong rankings overall. UConn’s nearly $231 million ranked 69th in the U.S., a leap of 12 places over the previous HERD data.

Setting UConn records, expenditures rose almost $34 million at Storrs, an 18% increase, and UConn Health saw a hefty increase in expenditures, up $31.4 million and 28%.

The rankings place UConn ahead of most regional R1 public universities, or institutions that conduct very high levels of research. Among New England institutions both public and private, only Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Boston University ranked higher than UConn.

Among all institutions, Johns Hopkins University was far and away the top ranked institution in the HERD survey, with more than $3.4 billion in expenditures. Its closest competitor—the University of California-San Francisco—expended $1.8 billion. The top 30 in the rankings all had $1 billion or more expenditures for research and development in FY22.

Inside UConn’s Expenditures

Expenditures are the funds that universities spend to conduct research. UConn’s research funding comes from two main sources: federal grants and institutional funds. Federal grants—such as awards from the NSF, NIH, Department of Energy, the USDA, and many more agencies—account for the majority of funding. Institutional expenditures are funds that universities invest in their own research programs and faculty. These investments are critical to building the capabilities faculty need to compete for externally funded research. Awards from other sources, such as companies, philanthropic organizations, and state or municipal governments, also support research.

The $230.8 million in federal expenditures reflects a gain of $47.4 million over the previous year. UConn has been on an upward trajectory for federal expenditures, with researchers earning more in awards to fund their projects. UConn’s federal expenditures totaled $129.9 million at Storrs and regional campuses and $100.8 million at UConn Health, both record numbers for the University.

Institutional expenditures also continue to rise. In FY22, UConn expended $105.6 million in institutional funding, up more than $17 million over the previous year.

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Novel Probiotic Application Method Shows Promise as Egg-cellent Growth Promoter for Chickens https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/novel-probiotic-application-method-shows-promise-as-egg-cellent-growth-promoter-for-chickens/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/novel-probiotic-application-method-shows-promise-as-egg-cellent-growth-promoter-for-chickens/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2023 12:15:23 +0000 Anna Zarra Aldrich '20 (CLAS), Office of the Vice President for Research https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207237 Chicken and eggs are among the most popular sources of high-quality protein in the world. With a growing population, making the production of this key food source sustainable is vital.

One pressing obstacle to this goal, however, is antibiotic resistance.

For years, farmers used low dose antibiotics as growth promoters. This improved the birds’ health and enabled them to produce more meat and eggs. However, with the rise of antibiotic resistant infections, antibiotics have been banned as growth promoters, leaving room for a new solution to emerge. That’s where the work of Mary Anne Amalaradjou, associate professor of animal science in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, comes in.

With the support of UConn Technology Commercialization Services, Amalaradjou has filed a provisional patent for a method of spraying chicken eggs with commercially available probiotics as a means of promoting embryonic and post-hatch growth.

Mary Anne Amalaradjou with her lab group. From left to right: Eswari Kanike, Amalaradjou, Mairui Gao, Ragini Reddyvari, Yuying Ren, Sulthana Muttathukonam, and Praveen Kosuri.

Existing growth promotion methods are applied after chicks hatch, usually through adding growth promoters like probiotics to their feed. Probiotics or “good bacteria” support the healthy development of chickens.

Amalaradjou decided to see what would happen if you sprayed eggs with probiotics starting on the first day of their incubation period. No one else had tried applying probiotics this early.

“[Human] development during fetal growth is critical for postnatal health and sometimes there are lifelong implications,” Amalaradjou says. “So, the same should be true of birds or other animals.”

Since probiotics are already commonly used in poultry production, this intervention would be easy for farmers to adopt. The method Amalaradjou developed also does not require expensive equipment or extensive training to use. Amalaradjou began observing changes in fetal muscle growth as early as day seven of the 21-day incubation period, highlighting the efficacy of her approach.

“If you’re starting later, you’re missing that important window and the growth potential is not fully realized,” Amalaradjou says.

Amalaradjou published a paper in Poultry Science showing that on day 18 of incubation, there was a 10.6% increase in embryo weight compared to those eggs not treated with probiotics.

This group also had larger breast and leg muscles – the two main parts of the chicken that are sold for consumption. After hatching, these birds saw increased muscle growth as well.

“When we talk about broilers, the money is in the meat produced,” Amalaradjou says. “How many pounds of meat do you get per pound of feed that is fed to the bird? That’s what matters at the end of the day in terms of the economic viability of the farm.”

There are two stages of muscle growth for birds. The first, the development of muscle fibers, occurs while the chicken is still an embryo. The second, the growth of these muscle fibers, occurs post-hatch. From the eggs treated with probiotics, the chicks developed 70-80% more muscle fibers.

“How much the muscle will grow will depend on the number of muscle fibers you have,” Amalaradjou says. “We had more fibers in the embryos of the eggs that were treated with the probiotics, which means post-hatch they have more capacity for growth which means more meat at the end of the day.”

Amalaradjou also studied layers – birds raised to lay eggs.

With the probiotic spray, Amalaradjou observed a 5% improvement in how many eggs successfully hatched. Amalaradjou published these findings in Poultry Science.

“We got more chicks hatching,” Amalaradjou says. “These chicks were also healthier, heavier, and better-developed.”

The chicks were more active and alert, meaning they sought out food and water to support their continued growth. Ultimately, these chicks ate less but gained more weight, an important cost-saving measure for hatcheries.

Their bones were also heavier and hence stronger, which is especially important for hatchery chickens since much of their calcium is diverted to their eggs, leaving the hens susceptible to fractures.

Through a USDA funded project, Amalaradjou is now investigating the egg production among layers to see if those treated with probiotics before they hatch produce more eggs as an adult.

Amalaradjou is also using Next-Gen sequencing techniques to determine why and how she is seeing these outcomes.

Recently, Amalaradjou has also received a USDA grant to study the intestinal development of chickens from eggs sprayed with probiotics.

“The other important thing for these birds is the optimum development of the intestines,” Amalaradjou says. “If it’s well-developed they can digest food better, absorb nutrients better, that means their feed efficiency will be better. It can improve the economic sustainability and viability of the enterprise.”

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The School of Pharmacy is Pleased to Announce Kathleen Adams and Marissa Salvo as ACCP Award Recipients https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/the-school-of-pharmacy-is-pleased-to-announce-kathleen-adams-and-marissa-salvo-as-accp-award-recipients/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/the-school-of-pharmacy-is-pleased-to-announce-kathleen-adams-and-marissa-salvo-as-accp-award-recipients/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2023 16:50:38 +0000 Taylor Graves https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207620 The ACCP granted Kathleen Adams the Emerging PRN Member Award. This award recognizes an individual who has made a substantial impact in adult medicine clinical practice and research in the early stages of one’s pharmaceutical career. To be nominated for this award an individual must be a valuable member of the ACCP, an Adult Medicine PRN member in good standing, have an established current practice as a clinician in adult medicine pharmacotherapy or researcher in an adult medicine related area of pharmacotherapy, and served as a lead author on at least one peer-reviewed publication or co-author of at least three peer-reviewed publications.

Adams received this award because of her dedication to the ACCP over the years and her extensive experience in the field. Through her work as both Chair of ED TRN PRN Professional Development Committee and Vice Chair of AMED PRN Internal Affairs Committee, Adams has been a distinguished leader for the organization. In addition, Adams has spent time as a member of the 2023 ACCP Annual Meeting Program Committee as well as the 2024 ACCP Opioid Use Task Force which has shown her commitment to the ACCP. Additionally, Adams is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice with a focus on general medicine at UConn. She works precepting students on their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences and trains students about appropriate drug use and treatment protocols.

Marissa Salvo received the honor of being elected an ACCP Fellow. To be honored as an ACCP Fellow, candidates must demonstrate contributions to the ACCP as well as have made advancements in the pharmaceutical field. Such accomplishments worthy of receiving this award include participation in ACCP committees, contribution to college publications, or being elected as ACCP officer or Regent. In addition, nominees must have demonstrated practice and research in the field such as drug therapy management responsibilities, educational presentations, original research presentations, or contributed to other significant activities or events in the field.

Salvo was recognized as an ACCP Fellow for all of her pharmaceutical accomplishments as well as her dedication to the ACCP. Salvo is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice at UConn and throughout her career, she has been successful in promoting patient self-care, advanced interprofessional education, and making valuable contributions working with UConn Health. Specifically, she has helped integrate clinical pharmacy services in the general medicine resident clinic at UConn Health.

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Students Cite Academic Support, Advising, On-Campus Housing as Top Priorities https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/students-cite-academic-support-advising-on-campus-housing-as-top-priorities/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/students-cite-academic-support-advising-on-campus-housing-as-top-priorities/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2023 12:30:52 +0000 Stephanie Reitz https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207541 UConn students overwhelmingly want the University to focus its resources on academic support and advising, and they prioritize on-campus housing and student activities as the amenities that will best enhance their college experience, according to a new survey.

The survey, which drew responses from more than one-third of undergraduates across all campuses, are among several tools and resources from which UConn is drawing ideas for its new Strategic Plan, which will be presented in draft form to the Board of Trustees on Wednesday.

President Radenka Maric launched the strategic planning process this year with the formation of a steering committee, which is guiding working groups that have spent the last several months delving into specifics on what the plan should incorporate when it is finalized in 2024.

The strategic visioning process has included in-person and virtual forums to gain input from students, employees, and others on UConn’s priorities over the coming 10 years to 2034.

It has included deep dives into specifics of how to ensure students’ academic success and well-being, maximize UConn’s research enterprise and its impact, support Connecticut’s economic development, and ensure effectiveness in how initiatives are implemented.

Margaret Feeney, UConn’s executive director of strategic planning and initiatives, said the process has included listening sessions at all campuses, wide-ranging discussions with a variety of constituencies, and using the data from new and existing surveys of employees, parents, donors, alumni, industry partners, and others to “get a pulse on the wider Husky community.”

The student survey, which was conducted over five days in September, is one of those many tools being used to inform the process.

“I truly believe we exist because of our students, and hearing their voices and prioritizing based on what we learn from them is very important,” Maric said when presenting some of the data earlier this fall to the Board of Trustees.

Depending on the topic, some previous student surveys have garnered response rates between about 5% and 12%. However, student interest in the new survey was clear, with a 35.5% response rate overall among all UConn undergraduates, and a highs of 46% at Avery Point and 40% at Hartford.

According to the survey, when asked where the University should focus revenue from the tuition and fees it collects, students ranked academic support as their highest priority, followed by academic advising; mental health services; initiatives to support diversity, equity, and inclusion; and physical / medical services.

In fact, the top three priorities – academic support, academic advising, and mental health services – were the same across all campuses: “It shows you how consistently our students see these areas as needs, and the actions that we need to take in establishing our priorities,” Maric says.

When asked about the priorities they felt would best enhance their lives on campus beyond the academic realm, more than half of the students ranked availability of desirable on-campus housing options as their highest choice.

In fact, desirable on-campus housing was ranked either first or second place by more than two-thirds of the respondents. The others, in descending order, were student activities; training and career services for job skills and their professional development; off-campus housing options; and financial literacy skills.

In addition to the direct outreach to all students by email, the survey response rate was also helped by assistance from faculty, who set aside time in classes for students to complete the 5-minute questionnaire; and promotional ideas such as random drawings for a chance at UConn basketball tickets for those who participated.

Reminders were posted in residence halls and on video monitors in common areas such as the Student Union and academic buildings. The University also conducted specific outreach to ensure the voices of students from traditionally underrepresented populations were included.

“We worked in multiple ways to reach every student,” Provost Anne D’Alleva told trustees at their recent meeting. “I think the survey is going to be a tremendous resource for our deans and of course for the strategic planning process, and is absolutely going to drive our priorities.”

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Strengthening the Danbury Community with UConn Extension https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/strengthening-the-danbury-community-with-uconn-extension/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/strengthening-the-danbury-community-with-uconn-extension/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2023 12:15:14 +0000 Jessica McBride, PhD https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207384 A proverb states, “it takes a village to raise a child.” The Extended Learning Program (ELP) offered by the Danbury Public Schools seeks to provide that village or community.

The program enhances youth development, and helps parents fill gaps left by the education system and full work schedules. Marlene Ho-Yen joined the ELP program staff in Danbury over 15 years ago. She discovered that UConn Extension’s 4-H program was an integral part of the extended learning opportunities.

“I didn’t know about Extension until I started working in the afterschool program and saw how much UConn 4-H did for the youth. The connection of what the community does and what the school does shows how much we need 4-H,” she says.

4-H is the largest youth development program in the country. Its mission is to help young people acquire knowledge, develop leadership and life skills, and form attitudes that enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.

Danbury needed more STEM education, and 4-H was able to help. The program introduces students to science, technology, engineering, and math in fun and engaging ways. The positive impact encouraged Ho-Yen to further strengthen the relationship. She started pursuing additional 4-H programs, and 21st Century grants to hire 4-H staff for the schools.

She says the results were amazing, as the students flourished.

“UConn 4-H is for the community – they are truly there to serve students and the residents of Connecticut in all different ways. The most rewarding thing is the ‘wow’ moments when students and families learn something.”

Nutrition education was identified as another gap. UConn Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educators were brought into the partnership with Ho-Yen and the Danbury schools. Both 4-H and EFNEP have the flexibility to provide for the school’s needs and adapt to the population.

Classes are offered on food safety, shopping on a budget, and meal preparation, among others, with guardians earning a certificate at the end of the series. Gardens are planted for harvest in the summer and fall, and they also bring families to the farmers’ market to help make the connection to their food and nutrition. Extension and the school system continue seeking creative ways and partnerships to better serve the community.

Ho-Yen explains that participants and their families show gratitude for the programs long after they have ended. Recently, she says parents that took nutrition education courses with the EFNEP program three years ago asked to participate in other Extension programs, because they found it valuable.

“Marlene Ho-Yen and the Danbury Public Schools are exceptional partners, and help Extension serve community members in Fairfield County,” says Bonnie Burr, assistant director, and department head for UConn Extension. “The collaborative programming we offer with them is integral to the success of the program, and the model Extension uses nationwide.”

There are eight schools in Danbury’s ELP program under Ho-Yen’s management, and each has distinct needs. UConn 4-H and EFNEP programs are offered on a rotational basis through each of the schools, with UConn Extension educators and volunteers leading them in cooperation with ELP.

Ho-Yen says she’s proud of what Danbury Public Schools and UConn Extension have built together, and is excited for what is still to come.

“I love what UConn 4-H does in Danbury; 4-H is doing community projects. and they are a continuation from every time we partnered in the past until today.”


UConn Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond by providing answers people can trust through programs and initiatives that include 4-H and EFNEP. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resource’s strategic initiatives. Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

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Research Offers Insight into How Mercury Enters the Food Web https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/mercury-binding-to-thiols-changes-food-web-bioaccumulation/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/mercury-binding-to-thiols-changes-food-web-bioaccumulation/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2023 12:01:45 +0000 Elaina Hancock https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207253 Mercury is a versatile but toxic element. Though it occurs naturally at low levels, its versatility and chemical properties have led to its use in a variety of industrial applications, including the extraction of gold, despite potential danger.

It is also released into the atmosphere during fossil fuel combustion, and although many of its uses have been banned, some are still ongoing, and their industrial signatures in the form of mercury pollution linger in the environment, especially in coastal regions.

Fortunately, not all this legacy mercury pollution is “bioavailable,” or able to enter the food web, but this can change with environmental conditions, and little is known about the mechanisms that control this phenomenon. The form of mercury that is most bioaccumulative and toxic is methylmercury, which is produced from inorganic mercury in aquatic waters primarily by bacterial processes. One team of researchers has been studying the mechanisms and conditions that make methylmercury bioavailable to the organisms at the base of the marine food web and they have found that sulfur compounds, called thiols, found in natural organic matter (NOM), play a key role. Their research is published in Nature Communications.

Seelen with co-authors from Umea University
Seelen with co-authors from Umea University (Contributed photo)

UConn Department of Marine Sciences researcher and Associate Research Professor Zofia Baumann explains that the project was started by Emily Seelen Ph.D. ’18, now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Southern California, when she was a graduate researcher in Professor Robert Mason’s lab. Seelen worked on one of Mason’s funded projects and also received an NSF graduate fellowship that also enabled a study abroad collaboration with co-authoring chemists Erik Björn, Ulf Skyllberg, and Van Liem-Nguyen from Umeå University in Sweden, well-known for their research on mercury, who had the facilities and expertise needed for the detailed mercury and sulfur chemical analysis of samples collected in the coastal zone of the northeastern United States. Urban Wünsch from the Technical University of Denmark provided expertise in organic matter characterization.

The researchers analyzed the chemical characteristics and sulfur forms in NOM samples and performed experiments to examine the factors influencing the degree of association of methylmercury with the NOM, and the chemical factors that control the extent of the association. They also probed the mechanisms controlling the bioavailability of methylmercury in tiny organisms at the base of the food web, called phytoplankton. The experiments analyzing extracted dissolved organic matter and examining the methylmercury interactions were done in Björn’s lab, and experiments with phytoplankton uptake were performed at UConn, Baumann explains. The samples for this study were collected in conjunction with other funded research through the NIH Superfund Program which partnered Mason’s research group with Research Professor Celia Chen and other investigators at Dartmouth College, and the analysis of samples from this study provided further support for this work.

“The uptake of methylmercury from seawater into phytoplankton is the largest concentration step, because the phytoplankton act like sponges; they are so efficient,” says Baumann. “We are seeing that phytoplankton can concentrate methylmercury up to a million times, possibly more under certain conditions, compared to seawater, and every other transition up the food chain, say from phytoplankton to zooplankton, it’s never this large, more like a factor of ten.”

Baumann explains that her role was to instruct Seelen on how to perform the phytoplankton uptake experiments, drawing from her previous work tracing how contaminants, like heavy metals, move through the environment.

Water samples were collected from 20 different sites along the Eastern Coast of the United States, including estuary and open ocean sample locations. Besides measuring dissolved and particulate mercury and methylmercury in the water, characteristics such as salinity, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and DOM were measured. The researchers suspected that methylmercury has a high affinity for sulfur, so DOM was chemically characterized in further detail to understand sulfur compounds called thiols. The chemists then performed thermodynamic and kinetic reaction experiments to understand how strongly the thiols impacted mercury’s bioavailability to phytoplankton.

Seelen explains, “A major finding was that the binding affinity of different NOM was similar across sites, and the ability of the NOM to bind methylmercury was more determined by the number of thiol groups per gram of NOM, which varied between river water and the coastal waters, where it was lowest. It was highest in salt marsh environments.”

Also, in terms of the uptake into phytoplankton, the kinetic interactions between methylmercury and NOM were rapid enough that this did not impact the methylmercury assimilation, and thus the thiol content was the major factor driving its impact on bioaccumulation.

DOM is abundant in the ocean and binds mercury very effectively, acting like a shield that prevents uptake into phytoplankton. The study showed that the offshore waters had much lower thiol content in NOM, so relatively more methylmercury is taken up by the plankton.

“We found a strong relationship between location and thiol content and were able to demonstrate that it’s very likely that the thiol contents in NOM are the key parameter controlling the availability of methylmercury to phytoplankton, rather than the NOM or DOC concentration,” says Mason.

Seelen filtering plankton for analysis of methylmercury uptake
Seelen filtering plankton for analysis of methylmercury uptake. (Contributed photo)

The researchers focused on estuaries and the river-estuary-coastal ocean continuum because these are areas rich in nutrients and biomass and therefore support an abundance of biological productivity, and as a result are regions where there is abundant seafood and potential for human exposure.

“This is why it’s essential to understand how mercury is cycling across these different environments,” says Björn. “We concluded that terrestrial organic matter derived from plant matter in marshes is tightly controlling methylmercury bioavailability, versus in the coastal ocean, where the NOM is derived from phytoplankton and local sources, resulting in the methylmercury being more bioavailable.”

New England is home to many estuaries historically impacted by mercury pollution and all have elevated concentrations of mercury, that are largely inorganic and not bioavailable. The same is true of Sweden and many locations around the world. Even though a small fraction of the inorganic mercury becomes bioavailable, and converted to methylmercury, the concentration is still much higher than in the open ocean. Therefore, it’s consequential to understand what’s going on in these estuaries because there is a large pool of mercury that can eventually enter the food web, and many humans rely on coastal seafood as a source of protein, and therefore are potentially exposed to elevated levels of methylmercury.

Not much can be done about the legacy mercury pollution, but future emissions can be decreased, and this is a focus of an international treaty, the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The convention came into force in 2017 after being ratified by 50 countries and there are now 147 parties to the convention, who have committed to reduce mercury use and emissions, and protect human health.

“We must remember that a major source of mercury emissions is the combustion of fossil fuel fuels here in our part of the world. In other parts of the world, small-scale, artisanal, gold mining operations contribute tremendously to the global mercury cycle,” says Baumann. “Around the world, governments must create and enforce policies, laws, and regulations to ensure that we are lowering the emissions of mercury into the atmosphere and our waters. That’s the only way that we can lower mercury in the food web in the long term. The timelines of that change are unclear and still under research.”

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UConn Foundation Names Amy Yancey President and CEO https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/uconn-foundation-names-amy-yancey-president-and-ceo/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/uconn-foundation-names-amy-yancey-president-and-ceo/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2023 21:34:56 +0000 Emily Zangari https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207535 To the UConn Community,

I am thrilled to announce that the UConn Foundation has appointed Amy Yancey as its next president and chief executive officer.

Portrait of Amy Yancey, new UConn Foundation CEO
The UConn Foundation appointed Amy Yancey as its next president and chief executive officer. (Contributed photo)

Amy was selected following a national search and brings extensive experience in senior advancement leadership roles. Since 2019, she has been vice president for development at Boston College, overseeing all institutional fundraising with an emphasis on financial aid, the student and athletic experience, and academic programs. Amy served in the acting senior vice president role during the ramp-up for BC’s $3 billion Soaring Higher Campaign, overseeing consecutive record-breaking years and $1 billion of campaign progress over her tenure.

Previously, she served on the senior leadership planning team for the University of Virginia’s $5 billion campaign. As associate vice president for development at UVA, she was personally responsible for planning and implementing approximately $1 billion of the goal as part of that campaign, overseeing fundraising, alumni relations, and board development for 15 schools, centers, and the priorities of the president and provost.

She previously led fundraising teams at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in plant sciences and agricultural economics, focused on land grant university research policy.
Before a career in advancement, she was vice president for a small start-up in Los Angeles.

Throughout her career, she has built a sterling reputation and is known for her capacity to think strategically, drive high-performance fundraising teams, and strengthen relationships with alumni and donors.

Drawing from her superb skillset, comprehensive experience, and leadership prowess — honed through closing major gifts and running teams at top-tier institutions — Amy will guide alumni engagement, endowment investment, and philanthropic advancement for our great University.

Her effective start date is Monday, Feb. 12. I hope you’ll join me in giving her a warm UConn Nation-style welcome.


Radenka Maric
UConn President

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Dean Elliott’s ‘Alumni Town Hall’ to Address the Changing Role of Business Education https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/dean-elliotts-alumni-town-hall-to-address-the-changing-role-of-business-education/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/dean-elliotts-alumni-town-hall-to-address-the-changing-role-of-business-education/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2023 20:32:30 +0000 Claire Hall https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207530 If you graduated from the School of Business a decade or more ago, you probably wouldn’t recognize some of the curriculum today.

“Our students are exploring newer areas of study, including entrepreneurship, data analytics, and financial technology, as they prepare to enter a rapidly changing workforce,’’ said Dean John A. Elliott. “This is a remarkable and exciting time at the School of Business and I’m eager to talk about what has changed and why.’’

Elliott will discuss the growth and future of the School of Business during an ‘Alumni Town Hall’ at noon on Dec. 6. He will be joined by alumnus Rich Eldh ‘81, co-founder and former co-CEO of SiriusDecisions, Inc. and member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, and current undergrad business student, Aria Penna.

Alumni are encouraged to submit their questions about the school to be answered during the session. For more information or to register for the program, please visit: s.uconn.edu/busalumth

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Pickleball Champ Credits UConn Health for Success https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/pickleball-champ-credits-uconn-health-for-success/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/pickleball-champ-credits-uconn-health-for-success/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2023 12:30:49 +0000 Carolyn Pennington https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207266

National pickleball champion Jeff Morse had a complicated knee injury due to an ACL tear that had occurred more than 40 years ago. UConn Health orthopedic surgeon Robert Arciero and his team rebuilt and stabilized his knee which Morse says has helped him achieve his pickleball success. (Video by UConn Health)

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Microalgae for Poultry Nutrition: UConn Researchers Receive NSF Future Manufacturing Grant https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/microalgae-for-poultry-nutrition-uconn-researchers-receive-nsf-future-manufacturing-grant/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/microalgae-for-poultry-nutrition-uconn-researchers-receive-nsf-future-manufacturing-grant/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2023 12:00:59 +0000 Anna Zarra Aldrich '20 (CLAS), Office of the Vice President for Research https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207231 A team of UConn researchers is developing a natural alternative to produce an essential amino acid used in poultry feed with support from a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Future Manufacturing initiative.

The team is led by Mingyu Qiao, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The team includes three faculty members from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering: Yu Lei, centennial professor, Yongku Cho, associate professor and Burcu Beykal, assistant professor; and two other faculty members within CAHNR: Yangchao Luo, associate professor of nutritional sciences, and Rigoberto Lopez, professor of agricultural and resources economics.

This project is also in collaboration with Patrick Heidkamp, professor of environment, geography, and marine sciences at Southern Connecticut State University.

This marks the first time UConn has received this grant and is Qiao’s first grant since joining the UConn faculty earlier this year.

The group will develop a novel biomanufacturing technique to produce an essential amino acid called methionine (Met).

Met is an essential amino acid for many animals, including humans. Poultry, which is are the focus of this study, use methionine to grow feathers. Chickens with a Met deficiency are too skinny for market and produce low-quality eggs. Critically, animals cannot produce Met themselves, so they need to get it from their diet.

Most Met supplements are produced using petrochemicals. This means existing Met supplements cannot be fed to organic chickens. It is the only dietary supplement for poultry which does not yet have an affordable organic alternative, creating the need for a sustainable solution. Currently, the only option is to bio-ferment met which costs approximate $43 per kilogram. The method Qiao’s group is proposing would only cost $6 per kilogram.

Qiao’s team is using edible microalgae, a nutrient-dense superfood in its own right, to produce Met organically. Using something that is already edible eliminates the need for further modification to turn it into feed for chickens or other animals, making it a cost-effective solution as well.

“It is a carbon neutral, or even carbon negative process for producing methionine,” Qiao says. “Overall, the entire process is very environmentally friendly.”

Like plants, microalgae can use sunlight to produce nutrients, including Met. However, using photosynthesis alone is a very slow process that produces relatively little Met. Microorganisms, on the other hand, can grow much more quickly, but this is an expensive and carbon-intensive process. Microalgae combines the best of plants and microorganisms to produce Met quickly and sustainably.

“Microalgae combines the advantages of being able to grow very fast but it can also use sunlight without using an organic carbon source or carbon feedstock,” Qiao says.

Scientists have already been able to extract six other amino acids from microalgae for poultry feeds making it a particularly good candidate.

Qiao’s team will develop a prototype for a photobioreactor which can be implemented in greenhouses across the state. This novel biomanufacturing method will allow the microalgae to use sunlight during the day to produce Met and carbon sources at night.

“During the day it will kind of act as a plant and at night it will act as a microorganism,” Qiao says.

They will also develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model to determine, essentially, when the algae should act like a plant and when it should act like a microorganism based on the availability of sunlight or other essential nutrients to minimize costs. The AI model will automatically calculate how much of a given resource, like sugar, is needed to optimize Met production.

This seed grant will allow Qiao and his team to collect preliminary data and develop prototypes of the photobioreactor and AI model, preparing them for future grant applications to advance this work.

The grant will also include workshops for underrepresented high school and community college students to help prepare them to enter the biomanufacturing workforce in collaboration with Southern Connecticut State University.

“In order to develop a future biomanufacturing industry in this area you need to have workforce,” Qiao says. “Hopefully we can use this opportunity make a more equitable society or community. Because in the end it will benefit society as a whole.”

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CAHNR’s Kristen Govoni Recognized for Excellence in Food and Agricultural Education by APLU, USDA https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/cahnrs-kristen-govoni-recognized-for-excellence-in-food-and-agricultural-education-by-aplu-usda/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/cahnrs-kristen-govoni-recognized-for-excellence-in-food-and-agricultural-education-by-aplu-usda/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2023 13:26:01 +0000 Jessica McBride, PhD https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207376 Recognizing excellence in agricultural sciences teaching and student engagement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) recently announced the 2023 awards.

Among the recipients was Kristen Govoni, associate dean of Academic Programs and the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture within UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Govoni is also a professor in the Department of Animal Science. Govoni received the 2023 Northeast Region award for Excellence in College and University Teaching Award in Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Dr. Govoni is a committed educator and administrator whose leadership continues to help CAHNR innovate and meet our students’ needs,” says Dean Indrajeet Chaubey. “I am grateful that esteemed organizations like the APLU and USDA have recognized Dr. Govoni’s contribution and impact at the national level.”

Man gives woman an award
Kristen Govoni receives 2023 Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences for the Northeast region from the APLU. (Contributed photo)

In recognition of their scholarship, exemplary pedagogy, and dedication to instruction, the awards include stipends to be used for improving teaching at their respective universities. The awards, which celebrate university faculty for their quality of teaching, service to students, the teaching profession, and scholarship of teaching and learning, were presented as part of the 136th APLU Annual Meeting.

“We applaud the 2023 winners of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences,” says Wendy Fink, executive director of the Academic Programs Section at APLU. “Through their dedicated and focused passion in mentoring and instruction, they serve as inspirational leaders for their students and other faculty striving to serve their students better.”

Govoni, a Connecticut native, came to UConn in 1995 as an undergraduate student of animal science. After completing her master’s and doctoral work in the Department of Animal Science, Govoni conducted postdoctoral research at the Musculoskeletal Disease Center at the Jerry L. Pettis VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. She returned to her home state and alma mater in 2008.

In addition to teaching in CAHNR, Govoni was also the director of the WiMSE Learning Community, which provides academic and social support for female students in the STEM disciplines. In this role, Govoni developed a comprehensive two-year academic program and student leadership and mentoring team. She also taught First Year Experience (FYE) classes, served as an M1 Presidential Mentor to support underrepresented students and faculty in the biosciences, served on the University Senate JEDI Committee, and was the director of the Northeast Section of the American Society of Animal Science/American Dairy Science Association.

Govoni also maintains a federally funded research program in the field of fetal programming where she mentors undergraduate and graduate students in all components of scientific research.

Follow UConn CAHNR on social media

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Two Students Attend Foreign Policy Conference at West Point https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/two-students-attend-foreign-policy-conference-at-west-point/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/two-students-attend-foreign-policy-conference-at-west-point/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2023 12:15:08 +0000 Mike Enright '88 (CLAS), University Communications https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207418 Two University of Connecticut students attended the annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA), which was held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from Nov. 1 to 4. SCUSA is a four-day conference during which students work with scholars and practitioners to develop proposals that address important topics in United States foreign policy.

The UConn attendees were Madeline Peling ’24 (CLAS), a history and political science major from Granby, and Mario Boozang ’24 (CLAS), a political science major. They were nominated for the conference by the international relations faculty in the Department of Political Science, including professor Jeremy Pressman.

Mario Boozang, a senior political science major
Mario Boozang, a senior political science major (Contributed photo)

SCUSA is one of the largest conferences of its type and is attended by approximately 200 undergraduate students from over 100 institutions across the world. The event dates to 1949 and offers an opportunity to discuss foreign policy issues and develop a relationship between the military and civilians as participants live with the West Point Cadets during the event.

Students were assigned to groups and held discussions on a particular foreign relations topics. The groups then presented a paper on their topics to the entire conference.

Conference attendees also gathered to hear various speakers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry.

“It was really interesting to hear what others groups were discussing,” says Boozang, whose own group worked on the Middle East and the foreign policy of the United States moving forward. “We had delegates from all over the world, including Israel, Bosnia, and Syria, so there were many different perspectives.”

Peling’s group looked at international institutions in the global order and how to combat the declining influence of the United States in organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank.

“We came up with some substantive policy solutions to increase the power of the United States by focusing on our human rights records and climate change,” says Peling. “It was interesting to work with students from other areas of the country that have different political perspectives from Connecticut. Those students were very cognizant of how our policy proposals could be pushed back upon by people on different sides of the issues, which is not something everyone in our group would have considered otherwise.”

The two UConn students also gained an appreciation for life as a student at a military academy.

“We were immersed in what life is like at West Point,” says Boozang. “We got up with the cadets at 6:30 each morning and ate with them in their mess hall.”

Madeline Peling, a senior public policy major
Madeline Peling, a senior public policy major (Contributed photo)

“It was definitely a culture shock,” says Peling. “Their rules are a lot more rigid. If you don’t wake up on time for breakfast, you are not getting it, whereas I can roll out of bed at any time and go to the dining hall. I gained great respect for how the cadets live and it is definitely challenging.”

Peling is already working on master’s degree work in public policy as an undergraduate and will have her secondary degree next year. She hopes to get into a career involving education policy. Boozang hopes to get a master’s degree in political science and is interesting in working in Washington, D.C. He has already done an internship at the U.S. Capitol with U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney from Connecticut and a summer one in the home office of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton from Massachusetts.

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‘A Celtic Family Christmas’ Comes to Jorgensen https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/a-celtic-family-christmas-comes-to-jorgensen/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/a-celtic-family-christmas-comes-to-jorgensen/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2023 12:00:51 +0000 Kenneth Best https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207479 Canada’s award-winning fiddle virtuosos Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy return to the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts for “A Celtic Family Christmas” to celebrate the holidays with an energetic afternoon of music, dance, and storytelling on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m.

MacMaster and Leahy both are from musical families and now have their own family of seven children who are part of the show singing, dancing, and playing instruments.

The duo has individual playing styles of regional Canadian Celtic sounds that they bring together for a high-energy performance. Earlier this year, they released their third collaborative recording titled “Canvas,” that includes collaborations with Rhiannon Giddens, Yo-Yo Ma and Brian Finnegan.

For more information go to Jorgensen.uconn.edu

MacMaster spoke about the show and her family’s musical history with WHUS earlier this week on the Good Music show (Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.) hosted by Ken Best.


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Breaking Down Barriers for Those Living With HIV https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/breaking-down-barriers-for-those-living-with-hiv/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/breaking-down-barriers-for-those-living-with-hiv/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2023 16:59:09 +0000 Christopher DeFrancesco '95 (CLAS) https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207423 Annamarie Shand says when she learned she was HIV-positive, she knew her life was over.

What she didn’t know at the time was how wrong she would turn out to be.

It was 1992, a time when such a diagnosis was largely considered a death sentence. She contemplated taking her own life. Instead she called an 800 number for guidance, and a counselor referred her to UConn Health.

Annamarie Shand black and white portrait
“A dark shadow came over me after I heard the words ‘HIV-positive,'” says UConn Health patient and Ryan White Program client Annamarie Shand. “Because of my excellent care at UConn, the shadow has been lifted and I can see my way through life!” (Photo provided by Annamarie Shand)

Shand was under the care of Dr. John Shanley for 15 years, and became Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus’ patient when Shanley retired.

“I was given the ultimate care by my medical team, which included nurses and medical case managers from the very beginning,” Shand says. “I didn’t think I could survive, but my care at UConn is the reason I am still here today living and breathing.”

Yesterday, the Unionville resident celebrated her 58th birthday.

“There’s no way I still would be living with HIV if I hadn’t been here,” Shand says.

André McGuire, 65, has lived with HIV for three decades, and for the last 10 years he’s been a patient of Dr. Lisa Chirch.

“She’s been great,” McGuire says. “She stays on top of new things. I don’t have to go in there and worry about whether or not she’s heard about some of the newer stuff, because she has.”

McGuire says his treatment over the years has kept his HIV largely undetectable.

The longevity of both patients is a testament to their treatment adherence, the term used to describe those who stay current with the recommended medications.

But often, those living with HIV are dealing with more than managing their viral load, and another factor in their success is the support services available through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which has been in place at UConn Health for more than 20 years.

“The Ryan White staff provides a valuable service in medical navigation and care coordination for HIV patients,” says Dieckhaus, chief of UConn Health’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “As an extension of traditional medical services, Ryan White care coordinators provides patient-centered care that emphasizes linkage to medical care and adherence to medications. However, importantly, the team also addresses the myriad of social, economic, mental health, and other issues that can potentially impact medical outcomes in those with HIV infection.”

Named for an Indiana boy who was 13 when he was diagnosed with AIDS after a 1984 blood transfusion, Ryan White is a federal grant-funded program for patients to help remove barriers to managing their disease.

Patients who have established care with a UConn Health infectious diseases provider and who meet certain income qualifications are eligible for UConn Health’s Ryan White program. Clinical staff help with treatment adherence and preventive care, and medical case managers help them with resources to meet their other needs, such as recommended medical appointments, transportation, utilities, food, prescriptions, housing, and clothing.

Amy Clark is the assistant nurse manager who oversees UConn Health’s Ryan White program, which exists within the infectious diseases practice. She says the face of the Ryan White program is nurse Dezrene Atkinson.

“If you’re new to our clinic or newly diagnosed with HIV, Dezrene is the first person who’s going to come out and see you and talk about barriers,” Clark says. “She administers vaccines, assists with scheduling medical and dental appointments, and will coordinate clinic services.”

Patient in exam room with nurse and case manager
Eileen Torres Gonzalez (left) and Dezrene Atkinson (right) speak with patient Annamarie Shand in UConn Health’s infectious diseases clinic. “Dezrene will check in with patients at each scheduled clinic visit to ensure the patients understand their plan of care, address current or new barriers, and make appropriate referrals to the care team,’” says assistant nurse manager Amy Clark. “She continues to build relationships with old and new patients in order to keep them in care and healthy.” (Photo by Chris DeFrancesco)

Eileen is my crutch… She goes above and beyond for us. And when you see people do that you tend to try to do your part as far as following directions, keeping up with your medical care. — Annamarie Shand

Joining Atkinson and Clark on the team are treatment adherence nurse Jeanne Urso, community health specialist Eileen Torres Gonzalez, and community health worker Blaise Gilchrist.

“Our ultimate goal is for patients to stay in care and feel welcome when they come to the clinic,” says Clark, who also is a treatment adherence nurse. “Anytime a Ryan White patient comes for an office visit we make ourselves available, whether it’s myself as treatment adherence nurse or a medical case manager, we want to make sure that health care services and barriers are being addressed.”

Clark uses a recent interaction to illustrate how patients become clients: An infectious diseases physician referred the patient, noting some of her challenges, and Gilchrist met with her.

“He described what our services are, and she identified that she does need help with transportation, that she does need help filling out energy assistance paperwork, because she recently lost her house, and does not have winter clothing, so we can set her up with that,” Clark says. “She’s taking her medicine as prescribed, so she did not need my service for treatment adherence.”

Others have need for both case management and treatment adherence, and are paired up with Gilchrist or Torres Gonzalez to be their case manager.

“At a minimum, our case managers connect with our patients monthly,” Clark says. “Some of our clients need more support and will reach out daily or weekly. Our case managers are a solid source of support and have become like family. They are often open to sharing their struggles with family, employment, mental health, or substance abuse.”

Torres Gonzalez has been working with Shand as her case manager for about 15 years. She credits that relationship for keeping her healthy, and believes the medical case management is the most important aspect of the Ryan White program.

“All of my services that I get for my health comes through my medical case management; they don’t miss a thing,” Shand says. “Eileen is my crutch. Eileen is that push you need when you feel like your buttons don’t work anymore, when you don’t have the energy to get up and do it anymore. She goes above and beyond for us. And when you see people do that you tend to try to do your part as far as following directions, keeping up with your medical care.”

Torres Gonzalez also has served as McGuire’s case manager.

“She’s able to find everything,” McGuire says. “If I needed help with something, I just told her what it was and she’d figure it out. And then I appreciated that because I already had enough things that I had to deal with in terms of trying to make sure I had a place to stay, trying to make sure that I had income, trying to make sure that I had food. And they even helped with transportation a great deal. Having somebody there who had an understanding of the program and was willing to do some of the legwork to get some of the needed services was a big relief.”

That’s one of the things that I appreciate about being there at UConn, because that was their goal. It wasn’t to keep you there forever, but to prepare you to move on.
— André McGuire

“I want to make sure that they know that I am here to help them, and my best interest is that they remain healthy,” Torres Gonzalez says. “Where I’m coming from, I have no problem telling them, ‘You haven’t picked up your medication in a week, it’s been there at the pharmacy. Why haven’t you picked it up? You missed two appointments in a row. I am here to help you, and I want you to be healthy, but if you don’t comply with your end of the bargain, then how am I going to help you?'”

Shand acknowledges the importance of this, and says it’s another reason for her survival.

“Not everybody is honest with their life, not everyone is as open as I am,” Shand says. “So when you’re not open with your doctors, or your case managers, or whatever support you’re getting, your life is like a circle, you’re just going around in that circle and it never stops. So not only is Eileen dealing with someone like me, I’m open with HIV and I listen and I’m happy with my services, but then you have some people who may take their income and they’re doing drugs, but they’re not going to tell her that.”

Even so, Torres Gonzalez says she can often tell when clients are struggling with drugs or alcohol even when they don’t admit it. What she struggles more with is helping clients get past the stigma of HIV that often persists.

“That is the biggest challenge,” Torres Gonzalez says, “Clients are not wanting to come to their medical appointments because there’s a big sign there that says ‘Infectious Diseases.’”

Clark notes that there is no distinction in the waiting area that makes patients identifiable by their condition.

McGuire, who lives in Waterbury, is the founder and pastor of ALM’s Ministries International, a Hartford nonprofit with a mission of building struggling neighborhoods through education, support, resources, and the Christian faith. With steady employment, transportation, and his own home, he effectively has graduated from UConn Health’s Ryan White program, in that he no longer requires a regular case manager.

“They’ve done quite a bit to help me move along to where I need to be,” McGuire says. “There are other people who will come behind us who are going to need some help. I know not everyone is capable, but for those who are, we need to work with them to a point where they can become independent. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about being there at UConn, because that was their goal. It wasn’t to keep you there forever, but to prepare you to move on.”

And in the meantime, it’s about removing obstacles.

“UConn is my safety net,” Shand says. “I don’t have to worry about it, if something happens to my medical, I can still get my medication, they’ll cover certain doctor visits. If I have, God forbid, a problem with homelessness or anything, they have so many different programs to use here.”

I can assure anyone needing HIV or medical care that at UConn, U CAN survive! — Annamarie Shand

The medication regimen has become less complex, making treatment adherence less of a challenge than it was in the 1990s. UConn Health Ryan White clients range in age from the 20s to the 70s; their needs range too.

“We have patients who will come to the clinic for an appointment with another specialty and will want to see their case manager and say, ‘Do you have a minute,’” Clark says. “Transportation is often difficult. Many of our patients take the bus or will have other arranged transportation, so they will stop by or schedule a visit with their case manager after a scheduled clinic visit with their providers for assistance with scheduling appointments, filling out paperwork, or job applications.”

Case managers will visit people in their homes, sometimes to drop off bus passes, other times to get paperwork signed.

“One of our philosophies is, ‘Meet you where you are,’” Clark says.

In 1996, Shand had a daughter, born HIV-negative, who remains so to this day at age 27. She credits a drug she took as a participant in a clinical trial at UConn for making that possible. She makes a point of sharing this because she wants to “inform any woman who is pregnant and afraid to get care.”

And she has a message for others living with HIV:

“I can assure anyone needing HIV or medical care that at UConn, U CAN survive,” Shand says. “Thank you, UConn Health, for giving me the care and tools to survive!”


Patients who have established care with a UConn Health infectious diseases provider and who meet certain income qualifications are eligible for UConn Health’s Ryan White program.

Learn more about the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, which is overseen by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Learn more about UConn Health’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

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After Semester-Long Development, Student-Created ‘BrewConn’ Beer Debuts with Glowing Reviews https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/after-semester-long-development-student-created-brewconn-beer-debuts-with-glowing-reviews/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/after-semester-long-development-student-created-brewconn-beer-debuts-with-glowing-reviews/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2023 12:31:39 +0000 Claire Hall https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207434 The University of Connecticut unveiled an inaugural, student-created beer on Tuesday, with a celebration that drew more than 350 alumni, friends, and other brewmasters, all eager to sample BrewConn, a double dry hopped hazy IPA.

The event, at Kinsmen Brewing Co. in Southington, capped off a semester of hard work for nine students, mostly chemical engineering majors, who learned the craft of brewing, literally from the ground up.

A pyramid of newly produced cans of BrewConn beer.
(Christopher Larosa / UConn College of Engineering)

Jordan Aeschlimann ‘24, of Simsbury, dreams of owning her own brewery. She is studying fermentation science, an individualized major. The Introduction to Brewery Engineering course offered her the chance to expand her perspective.

“My Dad has homebrewed for years and I helped him when I was growing up,’’ says Aeschlimann, who has also interned at a brewery on Cape Cod. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to ask so many questions to experts to help further my knowledge and understanding of brewing and the industry.’’

After trying the new beer on Tuesday night, Aeschlimann was pleased.

“It’s really good! There’s a good amount of hops, but it isn’t too bitter,’’ she says. “I was nervous to try it, but I’m happy with the way it came out. We nailed it, definitely!’’

UConn Brewing Innovation Initiative Begins

While celebrating the success of the students, the event also kicked off a new initiative called UConn Brewing Innovation. The initiative unites the College of Engineering, The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, and the School of Business in a shared educational and service mission.

The organizers plan to expand academic courses in the brewing process, provide scholarships and mentorship to cultivate talent in the industry, conduct research that will serve local breweries and farms, and provide collaboration and outreach for the 130-member strong Connecticut craft-brewing industry.

“UConn is perfectly positioned to launch an initiative to support the brewing industry with our expertise in agriculture, engineering and business,’’ says Jennifer Mathieu, executive director of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the School of Business. “This multidisciplinary hub can provide transformative experiences from ‘farm to pint’ serving both students and the community. It is an exciting opportunity.’’

‘They’ve All Learned a New Skill’

For the past three years, engineering professor Jennifer Pascal, the associate department head in chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been offering a brewing course to allow senior chemical engineering students to apply their knowledge. They gained hands-on experience in brewing beer using homebrew scale equipment and kits.

This year, the capstone course expanded, by offering trips to Smokedown Hops Farm in Sharon, Thrall Family Malt in Windsor, and two visits at the Kinsmen Brewing to learn about processing and canning. Pascal says this has been a great experience both for those planning careers in craft brewing, and for those seeking other endeavors, because of the real-world skills they’ve learned.

“Many chemical engineers work in the food and beverage industry,’’ Pascal says. “Chemical engineers are ‘process’ engineers and brewing beer involves optimizing processes and ways to improve them, all relevant skills in an assortment of industries.’’

A student with a UConn shirt stirs a combination of milled grains and warm water in a large brewery vat.
Hailey Tam ’24 (ENG) stirs the mash – stirring the mash – a mixture of milled grains and warm water – that goes into making the new BrewConn beer (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business).

In 2022, Pascal and Peter Menard, an avid homebrewer and director of technical services at the College of Engineering, submitted a proposal for an expanded program to Greenhouse Studios, a UConn educational think-tank. That’s how they joined forces with Mathieu, who brings expertise in entrepreneurship. Together they began strategizing UConn Brewing Innovation.

College of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian attended Tuesday’s event and says he is delighted for the students.

“What a senior design project; what a way to end your studies,’’ he said, joking that he feels his own capstone project, which involved smashing cans for recycling, didn’t have the same appeal.

“We’re committed to shaping new methodologies for chemical and biomolecular engineering research and curricula,’’ he says. “Under professor Pascal’s leadership, faculty are developing next-generation technologies for a product people have enjoyed for centuries. This engineering discipline proves that innovation is always possible, even for something as tried-and-true as brewing.’’

‘We Rely on and Help Each Other All the Time’

Although Connecticut didn’t invent craft brewing, most of the 130 breweries in the state are Connecticut originals, and the establishments support and encourage each other, says Bob Bartholomew, operations manager at Kinsmen.

“We rely on and help each other all the time,’’ he says. “I’m glad we have a relationship with UConn and can be part of its brewing program and share our knowledge about how to brew great beer.’’

He says he appreciated the students, who asked probing questions about operational efficiency and why ingredients are added at certain stages. “They helped make the process better,’’ he says.

Mathieu says the UConn students and their supporters are deeply appreciative of the team at Kinsmen and hope to partner with them, and other breweries, in the future.

BrewConn is a limited-release beer. Any leftover supply will be canned or available in the Kinsmen tap room. Although UConn has offered signature beer at athletic events, this was the first student-created product to be sold publicly.

BrewConn Well Received by Patrons

Tuesday night’s event, hosted as part of the UConn Foundation’s 1881 Series, was designed to engage alumni, and others in the industry, to generate partnerships and consider next-steps in developing UConn Brewing Innovation.

Alum William Kelsey ’16, ’19 (CANHR) says the beer tasted great, but he was equally impressed by the venture.

Faculty members and students stand in a brewery and listen to the brewer discuss varieties of hops.
UConn students and faculty listen as Kinsmen operations manager Bob Bartholomew discusses the impact of hops varieties on beer flavor (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business).

“I think it is a cool idea and I like that UConn is innovating and allowing students to brew beer,’’ he says. “I think it is fascinating.’’

He was joined at the event by a table filled with friends and says the UConn Foundation’s 1881 Series changed his tastes. “We weren’t beer snobs until we came to these events!,’’ he says. “I think the beer community will be very welcoming toward these students. UConn is such a strong name. If you say it is UConn-brewed beer, people will be interested in it.’’

Andy Iverson ‘06, an assistant manager in UConn Dining Services, is a member of the UConn Brewing Innovation Advisory Board.

“I knew BrewConn was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be that good!,’’ he said after sampling it. “I’ve traveled to many breweries, and I always felt that UConn was the Napa Valley of beer. These students nailed it! I think there’s a huge interest in craft beer in New England and it hasn’t slowed down. Wouldn’t it be great if UConn was known for basketball, ice cream—and beer?’’

CAHNR Dean Indrajeet Chaubey wouldn’t object at all. Merging UConn’s world-class education with agricultural research and innovation is the ultimate accomplishment.

“Initiatives like UConn Brewing Innovation are at the heart of CAHNR’s mission,’’ he says. “As the foundation of UConn’s land grant and thanks to our expertise in plant science, agriculture, food science and health, we are committed to helping students and business grow together in this exciting industry.’’

The initiative also appeals to UConn School of Business Dean John A. Elliott because it touches on entrepreneurship, innovation, and talent development, all touchstones of the business program.

“Connecticut has a proud history of innovation, and this initiative is an opportunity for students to test their ‘real world’ knowledge and participate in the economic growth of our state,’’ he says. “I predict a continuing success that will engage students from across the campus.’’

‘It’s Interesting How Beer… Brings People Together’

Kanisha Desai ‘24 (ENG), of Rocky Hill, took the brewing engineering course because she wanted to learn more about brewing non-alcoholic beer. She wants to be able to help small breweries create non-alcoholic beer, whose popularity is expected to double by 2030.

Desai is applying to master’s degree programs in pharmacy and biotech. She plans to pursue an MBA and eventually work as a process consultant.

“I feel like beer brewing is a great chance to see chemical engineering in a real-life, tangible industry and discover how ideas and production work on a big scale,’’ she says. “How many people can say they worked on a beer-brewing process in college?’’

She particularly enjoyed visiting the hops farm, run by the head of immunology at Yale.

A student in shadow holds a glass of beer in the light.
Cameron Hubbard ’24 (ENG) examines a hazy IPA (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business).

“It’s interesting how beer, of all things, brings people together—doctors, engineers, brew masters,’’ she says. “I think this collaboration is a great way to bring students into chemical engineering and offer them the experience to work in an industry they could pursue.’’

For Aeschlimann the experience has been impactful.

“I was able to learn more about Kinsmen’s brewing process in detail and taste certain unique beers. Having interned at another brewery, it was interesting to see how different breweries run their operation,’’ she says.

“I think the appeal for me is the atmosphere at a craft brewery,’’ Aeschlimann  says. “Each one has a unique vibe and atmosphere that makes them, well, them. Trying new brews appeals to many people. There is so much you can create now, using different flavor compounds. It’s a science, but also an art.’’

“I definitely think this program was worthwhile. When I tell people about it, many have said if they’d known about it, they would have joined,’’ she says. “I think the program will draw people to UConn. I think having a UConn beer, particularly a student-brewed beer, will make people say, ‘Wait! This is really cool.’”

“With the UConn name, it’s a great way to get students more interested in the beer scene,’’ she says. “I have friends who said, ‘There’s more beer than just Bud Light?’’’


If you are interested in learning more or donating to this initiative please visit: https://brewing.initiative.uconn.edu. The initiative also includes merchandise, which can be viewed at https://collegethread.com/collections/uconn-brewing-innovation

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Researchers Explain How Bacterial Products Get Inside Human Cells https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/researchers-explain-how-bacterial-products-get-inside-human-cells/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/researchers-explain-how-bacterial-products-get-inside-human-cells/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2023 12:15:52 +0000 Kim Krieger https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207210 Messenger bubbles produced by human cells can pick up bacterial products and deliver them to other cells, University of Connecticut researchers report in the Nov. 16 issue of Nature Cell Biology. The discovery may explain a key mechanism by which bacteria, whether friendly or infectious, affect our health.

Extra-cellular vesicles (EVs) are like a postal service for our cells. Cells produce the EVs, tiny bubbles with a water-resistant shell made of fatty substances called lipids, and send them into the bloodstream. When another cell comes across an EV, it takes it inside itself and opens it up. Inside the EVs are usually molecules that act as messages informing the receiving cell’s behavior or growth.

Now, University of Connecticut School of Medicine immunologists Puja Kumari, Vijay Rathinam, and colleagues report that EVs do something else, entirely unexpected. The walls of an EV can pick up pieces of bacteria, which usually have a lipid section that easily slips into the lipid walls of the EV (see illustration). The EV then brings the bacterial products inside of whichever human cell snags it.

An extracellular vesicle (EV) carries messages from cell to cell through the bloodstream. Sometimes pieces of bacteria (red) slip into an EV’s wall and hitch a ride.
An extracellular vesicle (EV) carries messages from cell to cell through the bloodstream. Sometimes pieces of bacteria (red) slip into an EV’s wall and hitch a ride (Vijay Rathinam/UConn Health.)

“We found EVs patrol the circulation for systemic microbial products and alert an immune surveillance network inside the cell,” says Kumari, a postdoctoral researcher in the Rathinam lab.

This solves a longstanding mystery. Researchers knew that our cells have receptors inside of them that detect bacterial products. But they didn’t know how those bacterial products actually got inside of our cells.

“We understood which microbial products go into circulation,” says Rathinam, an associate professor in the department of immunology. The products can come from infectious bacteria invading, or they can come from friendly bacteria, for example the ones that live in our intestines. When the receptors inside of cells detect them, the signals from bacteria can help the gut, immune system and even brain function properly. Or they can cause cells to explode themselves and cause inflammation, depending on the type of bacteria and the product involved. “But we didn’t know how microbial products reaching the blood from harmful or friendly bacteria go from outside the cell to inside the cell,” Rathinam says.

To show that EVs were actually transporting the bacterial pieces and bringing them into cells, Kumari, Rathinam and their colleagues did a series of experiments. First, they injected green-labeled LPS, a product made by bacteria, into mice. After about an hour, they found the green LPS on EVs in the mice’s blood. Second, when they transferred these EVs with green LPS to another group of mice, they found green LPS inside the cells in the recipient mice, setting off inflammation.

Although they have not yet tried the experiments with microbial products other than LPS, they suspect a similar thing would happen.

“We think this has a role in normal physiology as well as in infections. Microbial products from microbiota in the gut are released into circulation, and are important for the body. EVs may have a good, beneficial role in that,” says Rathinam.


This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Courage is the ability to do something difficult even when there’s risk. https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/courage-is-the-ability-to-do-something-difficult-even-when-theres-risk/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/courage-is-the-ability-to-do-something-difficult-even-when-theres-risk/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2023 19:30:46 +0000 Jennifer Walker https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207443 Merriam-Webster dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” For Katherine Wollenberg, firefighter/paramedic for the UConn Fire Department, courage means being brave, sometimes requiring you to put on a brave face when you are scared or unsure, standing up for what you believe even when those around you may not agree, and standing up for those that may not have a strong voice or a voice at all.

Wollenberg grew up on a small farm in Farmington and played Division I field hockey on a full scholarship at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. She has been a firefighter/paramedic for the UConn Fire Department since February of 2019; however, she has been involved in the fire service as a volunteer firefighter/EMT since 2010. In her free time, she continues to coach and officiate high school field hockey.

In her role as a firefighter/paramedic, she responds to emergencies on and off campus, provides high-level advanced life support medical care, fire protection, hazardous materials, assists with and performs inspections on campus, and more.

Courage means the ability to do something difficult even when there’s a risk. As a firefighter/paramedic, the job is full of risks. “From training, responding to calls, showing up on scenes, and putting ourselves into positions and situations that most people run away from or out of, it takes a unique, brave, courageous type of person to want to do what we do. Firefighters must have the courage to face a multitude of risks in order to save lives and protect the communities that they serve and respond to. Our unique courage allows us to willingly risk our own lives so that others can be saved,” says Wollenberg.

When it comes to being a firefighter/paramedic, she loves that she has the ability to work with people who are quite possibly having the worst day of their life. Whether they are in need of emergency medical care, were involved in a car accident, or their house was on fire, knowing that she can be there to help even the slightest bit is the best feeling.

“As a female in a male predominate field, I believe that it takes an even more unique, courageous, and outspoken female to make it,” says Wollenberg. “Being strong, ambitious, competitive, while also maintaining patience, and flexibility is very important. “

Each call Wollenberg has been on has shown her how to be brave and made her a better, stronger, more resilient person. Some have left a lasting impact on her that temporarily knocked her down and made her take a few steps backwards before moving on, but at the end of the day she doesn’t regret any of these moments or experiences as they have made her a better person, better paramedic, and better firefighter.

Wollenberg sees UConn Health as full of individuals that are courageous and truly embody the word courage. Working in the environment at UConn Health whether in patient care, research, education, or elsewhere takes a very special person, just like being a firefighter/paramedic does.

Health care professionals require so much courage to care for the sickest of patients and to go from one patient’s room to another without hesitation, putting their personal feelings and emotions aside to provide the best care possible is truly unique, and special.

All those that work in research spend incredible amounts of time studying and researching different types of diseases, areas of healthcare, medications/vaccinations. Our researchers are courageous individuals that aren’t afraid to break barriers and question the norm in healthcare research.

Our housekeeping staff are some of the most hardworking courageous employees that we have. These people go in and out of rooms to clean and sanitize rooms regardless of that happened in them. They haven’t studied medicine, yet they are hand in hand with those that do. They still see things that the average person doesn’t, are around some of the sickest patients, and still continue to go about their days like nothing’s wrong.

“UConn Health is full of courageous, inspiring, and truly incredible people no matter what their job is here,” says Wollenberg. “Working for UConn is a great experience, and is by far, hands down, the most supportive and rewarding work communities that I have even been a part of. I love the environment, culture, people.”

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UConn Prosthodontist Wins Top Honors at Annual Meeting https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/uconn-prosthodontist-wins-top-honors-at-annual-meeting/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/uconn-prosthodontist-wins-top-honors-at-annual-meeting/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2023 14:01:22 +0000 Courtney Chandler https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207398 A UConn prosthodontist recently received top honors from the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) for their outstanding contributions to academic dentistry.

At the 2023 Annual Session of the ACP this fall, Dr. Avinash Bidra, clinical professor and director of UConn’s post-graduate prosthodontics program, received the 2023 Educator of the Year Award for his exceptional skills as a dental educator. Bidra has previously received the Distinguished Clinician Award by the American College of Prosthodontists.

“I’m not at all surprised by Dr. Bidra’s recognition,” said Dr. Thomas Taylor, professor and chair of prosthodontics at the UConn School of Dental Medicine. “He has rapidly become a national leader in the specialty and his program is recognized worldwide for its excellence.”

Dr. Akanksha Srivastava, a 2018 graduate of UConn’s residency program, was also honored at the annual meeting. Srivastava received the Junior Educator of the Year Award for her contributions as a junior dental educator. Srivastava is currently at the University of Illinois-Chicago where she serves as a maxillofacial prosthodontist.

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UConn Startup Earns Small Business Grant to Commercialize Voltage-Sensitive Dyes https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/uconn-startup-earns-small-business-grant-to-commercialize-voltage-sensitive-dyes/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/uconn-startup-earns-small-business-grant-to-commercialize-voltage-sensitive-dyes/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2023 12:30:09 +0000 Matt Engelhardt https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207137 Potentiometric Probes, a biotech company created by UConn Health researchers, has been awarded a $1.9 million Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to commercialize their voltage-sensitive dyes for academic and industry use.

Originally developed at UConn Health by professor Les Loew and assistant professors of cell biology Corey Acker and Ping Yan, these voltage-sensitive dyes are the product of three decades of research. Through the staining of cells, tissues, and organs, the voltage-sensitive dyes convert changes in voltage across cell membranes into visible changes in fluorescence, allowing researchers to study electrical activity.

Traditional methods used to study electrical activity of cells have involved puncturing individual cell membranes with electrodes, allowing researchers to measure the voltage difference between the inside and outside of the cell. But, each electrode has to be positioned in the right place to puncture each individual cell, limiting the number of cells that can be studied simultaneously.

With voltage-sensitive dyes, researchers can stain an entire tissue and use a camera to measure patterns of electrical activity across a massive number of cells, surpassing this limitation.

“Each pixel in the camera effectively amounts to a single electrode,” says Loew. “So you can use millions of pixels to get millions of individual recordings from cells or subcellular regions like dendrites or axons or synaptic connections.”

The applications of these voltage-sensitive dyes are far-reaching, offering a gateway to a deeper understanding of both the brain and the heart. From studying neurological disorders like epilepsy to understanding cardiac function, the dye can literally and figuratively shed light on what’s happening in the cell when electrical signals are disrupted.

For example, in epilepsy research, overactivity of specific brain cells called neurons generates an abnormal surge of electrical impulses that can effectively short circuit the brain and cause a seizure. These voltage-sensitive dyes allow researchers to record these rapid electrical impulses in the brain, which can be a useful tool in improving current understanding of this neurological disorder among others.

Additionally, because the dyes are dual-wavelength, they allow researchers to measure changes in voltage with greater accuracy, especially in dynamic systems like contracting hearts. Single wavelength dyes might result in distorted electrical signals due to the movement of the tissue during contraction.

The ability to focus solely on changes in voltage through a dual-wavelength ratioing technique provides a key advantage over competitors. This offers unparalleled flexibility in studying cellular electrical activity, particularly within the pharmaceutical industry.

These dyes can be used to assess the safety of potential drugs by examining their impact on cell electrical activity, says Acker. “The dyes give a readout of what the signaling is looking like if it’s being distorted or influenced by the drugs in a way that might ultimately be dangerous if it was ever taken by a patient,” he says. “It’s a way to make sure that drugs are safe as they’re being developed.”

This application is indispensable for drug safety testing and, in the future, personalized medicine, paving the way for more patient-specific treatments.

The team plans on utilizing the SBIR Phase II grant to grow the company and optimize the voltage-sensitive dyes. They are committed to making the technology as practical and user-friendly as possible to encourage more researchers and pharmaceutical companies to explore its potential.

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Study Says Black Households Pay Higher Heating Costs, Seek Cold-Related Medical Care More Often https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/study-says-black-households-pay-higher-heating-costs-seek-cold-related-medical-care-more-often/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/study-says-black-households-pay-higher-heating-costs-seek-cold-related-medical-care-more-often/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2023 11:45:40 +0000 Kimberly Phillips https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207339 Ticking up the thermostat a degree or two is going to cost anyone more money, but a new study from UConn researchers suggests Black households pay more to keep their homes comfortable, in part due to increased cold sensitivity.

The finding, published this fall in Energy Economics, spans the socioeconomic spectrum and also states Black people who can’t afford those couple extra degrees end up seeking medical attention more often than white counterparts.

It’s a conclusion that UConn’s Jaeung Sim, assistant professor in the operations and information management department in the School of Business, says he didn’t expect. He and colleague Sosung Baik simply were researching household energy consumption patterns when they made the discovery.

“We didn’t intend to investigate the racial differences,” Sim says. “We were trying to figure out the relationship between smart electric devices and energy consumption, and, at first, we considered racial information only as a control variable. Then we started to notice some unexpected patterns.”

They looked at 5,686 American households included in the federal Residential Energy Consumption Survey and determined Black households spend $120.20 more annually in total than other households on average, with the gap increasing in higher income brackets, even after considering things like insulation, number of windows, and roofing types – all thanks to disproportionate heating demand.

With about 13.6 million Black households in the U.S., their paper says Black households collectively spend $1.6 billion more annually for energy consumption.

“This racial difference is not attributable to income differences, regional differences, or housing characteristics. We accounted for all of that,” Sim says.

They noticed the pattern early in their research, Sim says, and agreed to bring in UConn Health’s Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Jeffrey F. Hines to provide his expertise in racial demographics and health outcomes.

“He gave us insight on how we should interpret the results, how to describe racial differences, and how to define race,” Sim says. “And although this research was about household energy consumption, we found some health variables and had no idea how to interpret the results properly.”

Hines says overall cost disparities in the country are thought to be about $400 billion this year alone and expected to only climb, so noting those disparities and doing something to address them needs to happen now.

“The average person should care about this because, one, not only is it the right thing to do, but two, it’s costing us all money,” Hines says. “There shouldn’t be a group of people that suffers a higher incidence of morbidity or mortality because of where they live, what they look like, who they love. All those disparities exist for the LGBTQ population, for our Black and brown communities, for our rural communities, for our migrant communities.”

The heating survey asked participants whether someone in the household needed medical attention in the last year because of the cold, and after considering socioeconomic factors, it found Black households are 1.4 percentage points more likely to seek care for cold-related problems.

When asked whether they sought attention for heat-related issues, there was no difference between Black people and those in other groups, the paper says. That mirrors the finding that Black households did not spend more for air conditioning than others.

“People who are unlikely to have heat are in areas that have been chronically disinvested in and under-resourced. As a result, their health outcomes are likely going to be less or they might utilize health resources more because they are the victims of the effects of lack of heat from a health perspective and we see this in other social determinants,” Hines says.

Take, for instance, people living in substandard housing that has mold or lead. Children will have higher incidences of asthma, which oftentimes equates to more school absences and a gap in their education, Hines explains. Everything is connected – housing, health, and, in this case, educational outcomes.

And that’s why it’s important to get studies like this one in the books, Hines adds.

After studying underrepresented populations for much of his career, he says he was surprised the heating study found that even people who may be suffering financially are seeking health services. Because they have less disposable income, one wouldn’t expect that.

“That’s one of the things we’re thinking about doing a deeper dive in,” Hines says, asking, “was that an outlier, just the population we looked at, because other data doesn’t support that finding.”

The trio has agreed to continue their research.

Hines says he’s eager to determine whether the care people sought was with a primary provider or an emergency room and to look closer at Connecticut’s population to see what other previously unseen disparities may exist.

“I’m thinking of trying to find the connection between climate change and the racial disparities in health care burden,” Sim says. “The findings could influence both climate policy and energy policy.”

Hines also says he plans to leverage some of the findings of this paper at the state level as decisions get made about policies to address disparities in Connecticut.

Government programs like the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which seek to help people with home heating costs, target low-income individuals when even higher socioeconomic Black households have excessive heating costs compared to their peers, the study says.

“We need to be able to deploy interventions that are targeted and truly meet the needs of a particular population,” Hines says. “If we can continue to address that with state legislators, we can get people more access to what they need.”

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