UConn Today https://today.uconn.edu Fri, 24 May 2024 14:28:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.4.2 UConn Health Finds Non-Surgical Treatment for TMJ Pain https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-health-finds-non-surgical-treatment-for-tmj-pain/ Fri, 24 May 2024 14:28:55 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214710 A Furious, Forgotten Slave Narrative Resurfaces After Nearly 170 Years https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/a-furious-forgotten-slave-narrative-resurfaces-after-nearly-170-years-2/ Fri, 24 May 2024 14:25:14 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214708 N.C. Residents Sue to Remove Monument Dedicated to ‘Our Faithful Slaves’ https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/n-c-residents-sue-to-remove-monument-dedicated-to-our-faithful-slaves/ Fri, 24 May 2024 14:23:38 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214706 UConn Planetarium Revitalized With Plans for Public Shows, Sharing Love of Astronomy https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-planetarium-revitalized-with-plans-for-public-shows-sharing-love-of-astronomy/ Thu, 23 May 2024 20:28:01 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214704 Announcing the Provost’s 2024 Alumni Faculty Excellence Awards https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/announcing-the-provosts-2024-alumni-faculty-excellence-awards/ Thu, 23 May 2024 18:16:15 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214687 The Office of the Provost is proud to announce the winners of the 2023-2024 Alumni Faculty Excellence Awards. This prestigious recognition honors faculty members who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in research, creativity, and teaching. This year, three distinguished faculty members have been selected for their outstanding contributions to the University’s academic and creative reputation.

The Provost’s Office is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2023-2024 Alumni Faculty Excellence Awards. These prestigious awards are designed to honor faculty members who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in research, creativity, and teaching.

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Professor Senjie Lin, awardee of the Faculty Excellence in Research and Creativity- Sciences, Professor Annamaria Csizmadia, awardee of the Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and to Professor Kari Adamsons, awardee of the Faculty Excellence in Graduate Teaching for their remarkable achievements and their unwavering dedication to the University of Connecticut. Their exemplary contributions to research, creativity, and teaching continue to inspire the entire UConn community. The Alumni Faculty Excellence Awards are among the highest honors bestowed by the University of Connecticut. Recipients of these awards must have a distinguished record of sustained excellence and must have been a part of the UConn faculty for at least 10 years.

Faculty Excellence in Research and Creativity- Sciences

Professor Senjie Lin

Professor Senjie Lin.

Professor Senjie Lin is a distinguished professor of Marine Sciences at the University of Connecticut, renowned for his pioneering research in marine phytoplankton physiology and molecular biology. Internationally recognized as a leader in the study of dinoflagellates, Professor Lin’s work has significantly advanced our understanding of these ecologically critical organisms, which are often implicated in harmful algal blooms and coral bleaching events. His expertise in dinoflagellate biology has established him as one of the foremost authorities in the world on this subject. Professor Lin’s outstanding research and scholarly contributions have earned him national and international acclaim. He has served on numerous national and international proposal panels, provided peer reviews, and evaluated faculty promotions at various institutions, both in the United States and abroad. His remarkable scholarly reputation has also led to various editorial board positions for prominent research journals. In recognition of his significant contributions to science, Professor Lin was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography in 2020. Additionally, he has been a member of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences and Engineering since 2010. His work continues to shape the field of marine sciences and contributes to the global understanding of marine ecosystems.

Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Professor Annamaria Csizmadia

Professor Annamaria Csizmadia.

Professor Annamaria Csizmadia is an associate professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut, specializing in cultural diversity and the developmental processes of monoracial and Multiracial youth of color. Over the past two decades, she has focused on how culturally relevant factors shape the development of ethnic-racial identity and the pivotal role families play in helping youth navigate a racialized society. Professor Csizmadia’s research, informed by cultural ecological, critical race, and intersectional theories, highlights the importance of family ethnic-racial socialization in fostering social-emotional adjustment among youth. Her work emphasizes the dynamic interaction between family practices, youth social cognition, and their broader social environment. Professor Csizmadia’s research extends to understanding the impact of racial microaggressions on psychological well-being, as evidenced by her participation in the UConn Racial Microaggression Study, which surveyed over 1,200 students of color. Her findings have informed policy changes aimed at improving the campus climate. Professor Csizmadia has received numerous accolades for her teaching excellence, including the Honors Mentor of the Year Award, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, the 2020 CETL Teaching Fellow Award, and the 2023 UConn Stamford Faculty Recognition Award. She serves on the editorial boards of several prestigious journals and actively contributes to her professional community.

Faculty Excellence in Graduate Teaching

Professor Kari Adamsons

Professor Kari Adamsons.

Professor Kari Adamsons is an associate professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut, where she has been a faculty member since 2007. Professor Adamsons’s research focuses broadly on fathers and their impact on family dynamics and child development. Her studies encompass various topics, including fathering identities, fathers’ influence on child obesity, nonresident fathering, and the transmission of risk behaviors between fathers and children. Her interest in fatherhood stems from her college experiences with child abuse prevention and advocacy, which highlighted the crucial yet underexplored role of fathers in child outcomes. Her research has been highlighted by and used to guide the policies of federal agencies working with fathers. She also has published extensively on family theories and family processes, including two textbooks and the recent Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methodologies. A passionate educator, Professor Adamsons enjoys the multifaceted nature of her job, particularly the energy of teaching and mentoring students.

UConn Law Grad Starts Teaching Fellowship https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-law-grad-starts-teaching-fellowship/ Thu, 23 May 2024 16:48:20 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214681 A new gift from an alum will create a two-year teaching fellowship designed to give recent law school graduates and practicing lawyers a taste of what it’s like to be a law school professor.

The fellow will work with mentors to learn such skills as how to write and publish legal scholarship, teach a class, and navigate the job market to become a law professor, says UConn Law Dean Eboni S. Nelson. The fellowship also seeks to contribute to the diversity of the legal academy.

Stuart F. Smith ’80 decided to make the gift after talking to the dean about how beneficial it is for students to have professors from a wide variety of backgrounds in the classroom.

“It’s a way of creating a stronger, more nurturing, and more effective environment,” Smith says. “As a society and within the law school, I think there are benefits for everyone when you enhance diversity.”

Nelson says the gift will help the law school to better prepare its students for the multicultural, global society in which they will be living and working.

“It’s important to have faculty with diverse experiences and backgrounds to provide various perspectives as they educate the next generation of leaders,” she says. “As the state’s only public flagship law school and the responsibilities and opportunities that come with that, it’s important that we have a wonderfully diverse faculty, staff, and student body, all of whom greatly enrich our learning environment.”

While the fellow is not obligated to join the UConn law school faculty afterward, the hope is that they will jell with the students and faculty and decide to stay in the profession, creating a pipeline to UConn law school and other law schools.

Smith says he was inspired to give the fellowship after meeting with Nelson.

“I found Eboni Nelson remarkably inspiring in her vision for the community. She’s amazingly accomplished and effective. When you meet somebody like that it’s hard not to be supportive,” he says.

Smith grew up in Farmington, and attended Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Upon graduating, he went straight to UConn Law, practiced law for two years as a litigator, then decided to try something different. He enrolled in an MBA program at Columbia University and launched a career in investment banking. He is currently a partner at Centerview Partners, a Manhattan-based merger and acquisition-focused firm.

“I have a very strong and positive feeling for UConn law school,” he says. “It was extremely helpful to me. Even though I really didn’t practice law much at all, the benefits I got from it and the relationships I’ve maintained from that mean a lot to me.”

“UConn Law is extremely grateful for Stuart’s generous support that made the Stuart F. Smith Teaching Fellowship possible,” Nelson says. “Because of his commitment to diversity, belonging, and excellence, we will be able to positively impact the lives of aspiring law professors while enhancing our law school community and the legal academy more broadly.”

Smith lives in New Canaan with his wife, Amy, and has three daughters, two stepsons, and a stepdaughter. When he’s not at work, he enjoys walking his standard poodle, working out, reading, and connecting with friends and family.

American Urology Association Honors Dr. Peter Albertsen https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/american-urology-association-honors-dr-peter-albertsen/ Thu, 23 May 2024 14:13:49 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214480 In recognition of his impact on the management of screen-detected prostate cancer worldwide, UConn Health’s Dr. Peter Albertsen now holds an American Urological Association Distinguished Contribution Award.

Dr. Albertsen has had a long career in academic urology and has been one of its leaders for decades. — Dr. David McFadden

Albertsen is chief and program director of UConn Health’s Division of Urology and professor of surgery in the UConn School of Medicine. His nomination came from the AUA’s New England Section.

“Dr. Albertsen has dedicated his career to understanding and improving the management for men with prostate cancer,” says Dr. Gregory Adey, New England Section president. “His work has challenged long-held dogmas, and his work has helped us arrive at our current standards for care of the man with prostate cancer. Dr. Albertsen has been an invaluable contributor to the education of physicians and patients alike, both locally and abroad.”

Dr. Albertsen portrait in front of UConn Health sign
Dr. Peter Albertsen is a 2024 winner of the American Urological Association Distinguished Contribution Award. (Photo by Chris DeFrancesco)

The AUA recognizes Albertsen’s international reputation for his work on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing and the management of prostate cancer, and cites the following:

  • A career of evaluating the impact of screening and treatment on men with prostate cancer.
  • His work leading to invitations to serve on multiple AUA committees, including the PSA Best Practice, PSA Screening and ASTRO Panel for Prostate Radiation.
  • His work with researchers from six other SEER registries to report studies in journals such as JAMA, The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that documented patient outcomes and quality of life following treatment for prostate cancer.
  • His being one of two international members of the UK-based PROTECT Trial Steering Committee, the largest trial evaluating prostate cancer screening and treatment.
  • His role in helping develop the field of outcomes research in urology.

“Before I came to UConn Health, I was well aware of Dr. Albertsen’s distinguished career and national notoriety,” says Dr. Kevin Staveley-O’Carroll, UConn Health’s surgery chair. “His role in the development of screening and treatment process for prostate cancer has been pivotal at the national level.”

Albertsen has been with UConn Health since 1987. He’s been serving as Division of Urology chief and residency program director since 1995.

“Dr. Albertsen has had a long career in academic urology and has been one of its leaders for decades,” says Dr. David McFadden, UConn Health’s surgery chair from 2012 to 2023. “The American Urological Association is the premier urological association in the world and has chosen Dr. Albertsen this year for their Distinguished Contribution Award. The award is for his dedicated career evaluating the impact of screening and treatment in men with prostate cancer. Dr. Albertsen has over 300 peer reviewed publications in his career and at the University of Connecticut he has created an academic division that excels in education, scholarship, and patient care. I sincerely congratulate Dr. Albertsen for this well-deserved award.”

Albertsen is one of three 2024 recipients of the Distinguished Contribution Awards, which recognize those who’ve made “outstanding contributions to the science and practice of urology in a subspecialty area,” contributions through military service, or contributions for the development of new technologies.

“This award validates the research that I was able to conduct here at UConn Health using the Connecticut tumor registry, the oldest tumor registry in the nation,” Albertsen says.

Albertsen accepted the honor at the AUA’s annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, May 6.

Be On the Lokout for AI-Generated Photos After Bill Regulating Use Stalls https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/be-on-the-lokout-for-ai-generated-photos-after-bill-regulating-use-stalls/ Thu, 23 May 2024 12:15:38 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214664 A Furious, Forgotten Slave Narrative Resurfaces After Nearly 170 Years https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/a-furious-forgotten-slave-narrative-resurfaces-after-nearly-170-years/ Thu, 23 May 2024 12:11:55 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214662 UConn Health Minute: Lung Cancer Treatment https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-health-minute-lung-cancer-treatment/ Thu, 23 May 2024 11:36:25 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214658 Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for both men and women but as UConn Health thoracic surgeon Dustin Walters explains, patient outcomes can be improved with early screening and advanced treatment options.

UConn Hosts Just Transitions Symposium https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-hosts-just-transitions-symposium/ Thu, 23 May 2024 11:30:12 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214426 This month, UConn hosted a collaborative platform that brought together scholars, students, and experts from various disciplines. The Just Transitions Symposium aimed to explore themes and strategies for a sustainable and equitable global future, emphasizing the importance of diverse voices and disciplines in addressing climate change.

Human beings are entering a time where climatic conditions are unlike those in which our species evolved and where atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been for millions of years. The necessity for a swift transition away from fossil fuels driving climate change is clear, and to navigate this critical transition, a holistic approach is needed to create a low-carbon future.

The idea for the Just Transitions Symposium stemmed from a faculty reading group that explores just transition themes, many of which have their roots in the social sciences and humanities, explained Professor and Head of the Department of Geography and Chair of Atmospheric Sciences Group Anji Seth:

“The reading group started from my need as a STEM scientist to learn more about these issues. This symposium is the next step, and we invited scholars we have been reading and who are challenging the dominant ways of seeing the world. The intention of this symposium is to think deeply about the issues we are exploring here. It’s a big task, but fortunately, many people here and elsewhere are working on this, and we are lucky to have the people who have the energy to look at these issues.”

Instead of dwelling on the challenge, the organizers sought to recognize the opportunities. As noted by the speakers, the symposium’s outcomes provided a unique opportunity for everyone in attendance to learn and share perspectives on the subjects’ interrelatedness, complexities, and contradictions, enriching their understanding of the global transition.

“We are no strangers to the effects of climate change here in New England. With the influence of storms and rising sea levels, the effects are increasingly evident. We need to ensure the shift to a more sustainable economy is a fair and equitable one,” said Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Statistics Ofer Harel during the symposium.

The symposium featured six panels focusing on themes in just transition scholarship, with speakers talking about global inequalities and climate justice and the rights of nature; integrative systems changes for just regenerative futures; socio-economic policies and politics for a just transition; innovations for the just green energy transition; youth and environmental learning and curriculum; and a closing discussion about next steps.

Attendees and speakers included journalists, historians, philosophers, filmmakers, engineers, geographers, economists, sociologists, political scientists, and others who may not typically be immediately associated with research into a low or no-carbon future.

“This symposium shows the spirit of collaboration between the sciences and humanities and bridges the gap between the disciplines. By bringing together diverse perspectives, this collaboration shows the spirit of liberal arts and sciences,” said Harel.

Professor of Geography Carol Atkinson-Palombo drew a parallel between the symposium and this year’s UConn Reads selection ‘Braiding the Sweet Grass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer:

“Thinking on how Wall-Kimmerer frames it, we don’t know what will spark the change, but we need to gather the materials and momentum to fuel the transformation. That is consistent with our role as educators, we are gathering this information to set the stage to think about this transition seriously.”

The symposium helped connect UConn students and faculty with experts in the field of just transition research and strengthen existing connections. Throughout the discussions, scholars noted the points of intersection between theirs and the research of others.

Since the symposium was centered on this field of scholarship which is gaining urgency given the intersecting problems that are accelerating existing injustices and inequalities, another common theme was that everyone was there to learn from one another. The symposium drew inspiration from a similar collaborative effort in the early 1990s. At that time, a group of scholars united to redefine the meaning of environmentalism and the objectives of the environmental movement. This collective effort led to the groundbreaking publication of “Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature,” a text that continues to shape environmental education.

Like its predecessor, the symposium is a testament to the power of collaboration and the potential for transformative change and the organizers are planning to create an edited volume about the themes discussed.

The agenda also included a guided tour and discussion of the Benton exhibition Seeing Climate Change? led by the exhibition’s co-creator, Professor of Earth Sciences Robert Thorson.

Also on display were posters created by environmental studies students, and CIRCA Legal Fellow Louanne Cooley’s artwork as part of the Tempestry Project. Cooley said art, such as the Tempestry Project, is a great method to help people visualize climate and get conversations started.

“Art is one of an infinite number of ways to be mindful of climate change,” said Thorson.

Attendees also had the opportunity to view portions of a film called “Künü” by Indigenous filmmaker Francisco Huichaqueo-Pérez, which details the thirteen-year land recovery effort by Indigenous Mapuche communities with a Chilean forestry company. Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights César Abadia-Barrero echoed others in his introduction of Huichaqueo-Pérez’s work in emphasizing the importance of working alongside Indigenous communities in a genuine and meaningful way.

Being mindful of the many interconnected elements and definitions encompassing just transitions was another pressing topic of discussion. Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Economics Kathleen Segerson addressed the question in opening remarks of what is meant by “just transitions.”

“Just transitions means something different to each person. What are we transitioning to, and what are we transitioning away from? Who is bearing the cost of the transition? It is important for us to define what we mean and to keep our feet on the ground if we want to make progress.”

Professor of Business Law and Eversource Energy Chair in Business Ethics Robert Bird emphasized the need to ask those types of questions and explore ways to help communicate and move in a more sustainable direction while also finding hope in every victory.

“Exploring the goal of a just transition from a business perspective highlights the potential for solutions that may not otherwise be available,” said Bird.



The full list of speakers included: Anji Seth, Professor and Head, Geography and Chair of Atmospheric Sciences Group, UConn; Bandana Purkayastha, Associate Dean, Social Sciences, Regional Campuses, and Community Engagement, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,  and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Sociology and Asian American Studies, UConn; Ofer Harel, Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Statistics, UConn; Kathleen Segerson, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Economics, UConn; Eleanor Ouimet, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UConn; Helen Kopnina, Assistant Professor, Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University; Dirk Hanschel, Max Planck Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology; Thomas Bontly, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Director of Environmental Studies Program, UConn; Carol Atkinson-Palombo, Professor of Geography, UConn; Alexandra Lamiña, Institute of Latin American Studies LLILAS, University of Texas at Austin; César Abadia-Barrero, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights, UConn; Catalina Alvarado-Cañuta, PhD student, Anthropology, UConn; and Francisco Huichaqueo-Pérez, Filmmaker; Jill Desimini, Director and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, UConn; Mark Healey, Professor and Head, History, UConn; Nick Romeo, New Yorker Journalist; Mimi Sheller, Dean, The Global School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Lavinia Steinfort, Project Coordinator, Public Alternatives Project, Transnational Institute; Thea Riofrancos, Associate Professor of Political Science, Providence College; Oksan Bayulgen, Professor and Head, Political Science, UConn; Mary Buchanan, Community Resilience Planner, Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), UConn; Alex Agrios, P.E. Associate Professor, Al Geib Professor of Environmental Engineering, UConn; Robert Bird, Professor of Business Law, Eversource Energy Chair in Business Ethics, and Research Fellow, UConn School of Law; Carolyn Lin, Professor of Communication, UConn; Robert Thorson, Professor of Earth Sciences, UConn; Kerry Marsh, Professor of Psychological Sciences, UConn; Lesley-Ann Dupigney-Giroux, Professor of Geography and Geosciences, University of Vermont, Vermont State Climatologist; Phoebe Godfrey, Sociology Professor-in-Residence, UConn; Andy Jolly-Ballantine, Geography Professor-in-Residence, UConn; and Stacy Maddern, Urban and Community Studies Assistant Professor-in- Residence, UConn; Ugur Pasaogullari, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UConn; and Oksan Bayulgen, Professor and Head, Political Sciences, UConn; Elaina Hancock, PhD Student, Geography; and Research Writer for University Communications, UConn.

UConn Partnership with East Hartford Public Schools Celebrates First Year https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-partnership-with-east-hartford-public-schools-celebrates-first-year/ Thu, 23 May 2024 11:30:01 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214623 The Connecticut Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Partnership celebrated a productive first year with an eventful site visit from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention representatives. Stephanie Domain and Melissa Fahrenbruch from the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), flew to Connecticut in late April to learn what UConn and East Hartford Public Schools have been up to.

Last year, the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health and the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health were awarded a five-year, $2 million cooperative agreement from the CDC to protect and improve the health and well-being of school-age children and adolescents in Connecticut. The UConn team, led by Co-PIs Sandra Chafouleas and Marlene Schwartz and Co-Investigators Jessica Koslouski and Kathleen Williamson ’13 MA ’17 Ph.D., hit the ground running and formed the CT WSCC Partnership, which supports the implementation of evidence-based policies, practices, programs, and services aligned with the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model.

A female professor leads a class for educators.
Sandra Chafouleas leads a professional development session at East Hartford’s Raymond Library. (Laura Roberts/CT WSCC photo)

So far, the Partnership has provided more than a dozen hours of professional development in East Hartford Public Schools, the school district partner on the project. These hours focused on building foundational knowledge about the WSCC model across the district and guiding the District and School WSCC Teams through assessment and action planning activities to begin to strengthen WSCC-aligned practices.

“East Hartford is the perfect partner, as they had already laid much of the groundwork for this project,” says Chafouleas, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Ray Neag Professor of School Psychology in the Neag School of Education and Co-Director of the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health. “East Hartford Public Schools has been focusing on health and wellness for 20 years and Tracy Stefano [K-12 Supervisor of Health & Physical Education] has been a huge proponent of the WSCC model.”

As part of the site visit, Domain and Fahrenbruch observed one of the East Hartford Public Schools professional development sessions led by the UConn team. Stefano was involved in the coordination of the sessions.

“Using the WSCC tools developed by UConn, we’ve been able to work together to examine our current practices and our future needs that align to the WSCC model,” says Stefano. “It’s fantastic to see our leaders now connecting the work they’re already doing and their strategic plans to this model in a way that is sustainable and benefits our schools, community and children.”

Domain and Fahrenbruch also stopped by two schools during their time in East Hartford. They took part in a schoolwide Wellness Day at the Connecticut IB Academy and visited Mayberry Elementary School, where they learned about the different resources available to support students, from the school garden to the school-based health center.

“We were proud to host the CDC for the WSCC site visit and have the chance to share the collective efforts we have made to ensure we meet the needs of all children, every day,” says Joe LeRoy, principal of Mayberry. “The connection between current practices and plans for next steps allowed the team to see the prospective impact of the partnership.”

In addition to focused collaboration with East Hartford Public Schools, the CT WSCC Partnership also leads statewide efforts to increase implementation of WSCC-aligned policies and practices.
As part of the CDC’s site visit, the Partnership hosted a meeting of key statewide leaders who have historically collaborated with CSCH and the Rudd Center and will continue to serve as partners as the Partnership expands its statewide work. Leaders from the Connecticut departments of Public Health and Education were in attendance, as well as representatives from UConn’s Vice Provost’s Office; Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy; and Neag School of Education.

Using the WSCC tools developed by UConn, we’ve been able to work together to examine our current practices and our future needs that align to the WSCC model. — Tracy Stefano, East Hartford Public Schools

“We’re looking forward to using the WSCC Model with our longstanding partners to document all of the ways in which Connecticut supports student and school health and discover new ways to coordinate efforts,” says Marlene Schwartz, professor in Human Development and Family Sciences and Director of the Rudd Center.

Another significant statewide success of the CT WSCC Partnership’s first year was the launch of the WSCC Academy, a free day of training for school and district wellness teams to learn about the WSCC model and tools to strengthen whole child practices in their setting. The first WSCC Academy was held in early fall 2023, and the Partnership team just hosted its second WSCC Academy on Friday, May 17.

“We used feedback from last year’s attendees to expand, so that this year we had introductory and intermediate/advanced professional learning tracks to meet teams where they are in their WSCC journeys,” says Kate Williamson, Co-Investigator and Project Coordinator of the Partnership. “We were excited to have over 40 attendees from 16 districts and organizations this year.”

School districts interested in learning more about the CT WSCC Partnership and potential professional development can find out more on the Partnership website.

“It was a truly incredible experience having the opportunity to see the work of the cooperative agreement being implemented at the state level and with the [district]” says Domain of the CDC. “Seeing such dedicated and committed staff and buy-in from leadership was truly spectacular.”

$10 Million USDA Poultry Sustainability Grant Making Progress on All Initiatives https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/10-million-usda-poultry-sustainability-grant-making-progress-on-all-initiatives/ Thu, 23 May 2024 11:15:21 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214238 In 2020, UConn researcher Kumar Venkitanarayanan, associate dean of research and graduate education in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, received a $10 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to lead a project studying sustainable poultry production with an eye to chicken, human, and environmental health.

CAHNR 10th Anniversary of Health badge“In light of the restriction of antibiotics in poultry production, we need to ensure the sustainability of the broiler industry,” Venkitanarayanan says. “Based on this principle, we are targeting the three major components of the poultry sector [chicken, human, and environmental health] to determine how we can improve broiler production without antibiotics and with the use of safe and environmentally friendly approaches.”

The group, which includes researchers from multiple institutions, has already made significant progress on each of these objectives.

Chicken Health 

The first objective within the chicken health component of the grant is preventing infection from two major diseases of concern for poultry farmers: a bacterial disease called necrotic enteritis and a parasitic disease called coccidiosis.

A group of researchers at the USDA have identified a vaccine candidate for coccidiosis, which is one of the costliest diseases in the poultry industry.

Farmers have used live or attenuated versions of the parasite that causes coccidiosis as a vaccine. However, the rise of drug-resistant parasites, their genetic evolution, and the cost of this type of vaccine meant it is time to look for new solutions.

This group published their findings showing this new vaccine candidate effectively protected young broiler chickens from infection in Poultry Science.

Researchers from the USDA have also been working on using beneficial bacteria to combat necrotic enteritis infection.

Necrotic enteritis occurs when there is a detrimental change in the microflora in chickens’ gastrointestinal track. Hence, the researchers wanted to find new ways to protect the chickens’ gastrointestinal health using probiotic bacteria and naturally occurring plant compounds.

Increasing global demand for meat necessitates identification of novel feed ingredients to improve growth, performance, and enhance the sustainability of broiler production. The researchers at UConn in collaboration with USDA-ARS and other institutions are identifying feed ingredients like insects and meal worms as proteins sources for chickens. Using these feed ingredients, investigators are comparing the chickens’ growth rate and gut health, and amino acid profile with the new supplements versus regular feed.

“This is critical because we all know our natural resources are getting reduced because of climate change, drought, and other environmental conditions,” Venkitanarayanan says. “So, our objective here is to identify alternative feed ingredients that can be incorporated into the poultry diet.”

In another study, Mary Anne Amalaradjou, associate professor of animal science, published a study demonstrating the efficacy of spraying chicken eggs with a probiotic bacteria before hatching on improving chicken growth rates and health.

The final element focused on chicken health is improving bird welfare in hot climates. In broiler production, chickens are densely packed into a small space. This causes heat stress and a buildup of ammonia from feces, which is a threat to birds’ and human workers’ health. Researchers from the University of Arkansas are looking at using naturally derived phytochemicals to condition the birds to better handle heat stress.  Similarly, researchers from the University of Georgia are developing optimal circulation fan systems to control moisture and enhance air quality and litter quality in broiler houses.

Human Health

The human health initiatives in this grant focus on reducing food borne pathogens, like Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry meat. These two bacteria are responsible for approximately 70% of all food-borne illness in humans.

Venkitanarayanan and his colleagues at UConn, Abhinav Upadhyay from the Department of Animal Science, Yangchao Luo from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and Indu Upadhyaya from UConn Extension are leading the research on this aspect.

“There is a great interest in reducing the colonization of these two foodborne pathogens in poultry,” Venkitanarayanan says.

The group is using two molecules derived from cinnamon oil and coconut oil as poultry feed or water additives. The goal is to stop bacterial colonization in the chickens’ guts so that these bacteria cannot even reach the human consumer.

“We want to make sure broiler production is sustainable in the coming years even when antibiotics are restricted,” Venkitanarayanan says.

A second aspect of human health addressed in this grant deals with controlling antibiotic resistant bacteria in poultry meat. With food animals, including poultry being recognized as a source of antibiotic resistant bacteria, meat represents a potential vehicle of these microorganisms. Specifically, researchers have been monitoring the various antibiotic resistant bacteria in poultry and the production environment, including feed, water and litter  and genetically characterizing them  and tracking their source. On the other hand, researchers led by Venkitanarayanan are targeting to control the process of horizontal gene transfer through which bacteria spread antibiotic-resistant genes to each other in poultry production environment, making the entire colony resistant to existing antibiotics.

Environmental Health and Outreach

A group of researchers at North Carolina State University are looking at ways to recycle poultry litter into nitrogen- and phosphorous-enriched carbons which can be used to generate energy.

“Poultry litter is a major waste product from the poultry industry and there’s a huge environmental burden in disposing it,” Venkitanarayanan says.

Another group of researchers are investigating the socioeconomic and environmental impact of the whole grant project. The results of this research will be released following the conclusion of the project in 2026.

Educational specialists are also developing curricula for college-level courses on sustainable poultry production based on the grant’s work. These courses will be offered to undergraduate and graduate students at UConn in 2025.

The researchers are also regularly holding symposia and workshops with stakeholders including farmers, industry, and regulatory agencies to share the knowledge they have gained so far.

“This work is critically important from a One Health perspective, which recognizes the connection between the health of people, animals, and our environment,” says Venkitanarayanan. “CAHNR is uniquely positioned to lead in this type of interdisciplinary research, which continues to grow in importance for our society.”


 Institutions involved in the project besides UConn are the University of Georgia, the University of Arkansas, the University of Mississippi, Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University, Iowa state University, the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland, the USDA Agricultural Service of Maryland, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Appalachian State University.

This work relates to CAHNR’s Strategic Vision area focused on Ensuring a Vibrant and Sustainable Agricultural Industry and Food Supply and Enhancing Health and Well-Being Locally, Nationally, and Globally.


Follow UConn CAHNR on social media

National Innovation Award Goes to UConn Health Leaders Program https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/national-innovation-award-goes-to-uconn-health-leaders-program/ Wed, 22 May 2024 20:18:01 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214625 The UCHL leadership team accepted the Society’s Quality and Practice Innovation Award at its national meeting on May 18 in Boston.

Award of UConn Health Leaders displayed on screen in BostonThe Quality and Practice Innovation Award recognizes UCHL as a role model practice and applauds it for improving care within the quality domains of safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equality. This award also recognizes the UCHL team, composed of general internists and members of both UConn Health and UConn that have successfully developed and implemented an innovative system of practice improvement in ambulatory and inpatient clinical practices.

UCHL was created in 2019 through a partnership between students and faculty at UConn School of Medicine to better address unmet social needs in the community that impact a patient’s ability to achieve equitable care.

The student-powered program was co-founded by UConn medical students and is overseen by UConn Health’s Dr. Christopher Steele. UCHL has been helping curb patient health inequities by screening patients with iPads in UConn Health’s outpatient care waiting rooms and hospital to uncover social determinants of health — non-medical factors that can influence health outcomes, such as unemployment, food insecurity, or transportation instability — in real time.

Dr. Christopher Steele
Dr. Christopher Steele (center) of UConn Health and UConn School of Medicine.

For those identified with needs, UCHL’s innovative survey automatically populates community partnerships that address those disparities. For example, if someone identifies as food insecure, the survey populates to offer the resource Hands on Hartford, which is a local organization dedicated to addressing this need. Student advocates work to connect the patient with any necessary social resources.

“The program provides direct patient care experiences that allows students to both learn how unmet social needs impact health outcomes but be the change agent to make the difference,” applauds Steele.

Student volunteers in UCHL from across the University are taught what health disparities and social determinants of health may exist, how to identify them, and how to help fix them. Each student volunteers for ten, 4-hour shifts at a UConn Health primary care clinic or the hospital.

Impressively, the program has already trained more than three hundred volunteers to screen 9,000 patients, with 6,000 patients screening positive for one social determinant of health for a total of 10,000 identified. Of those risk factors identified, over 2,000 were addressed through warm handoffs with community partnerships.

This award honors the innovative work of UCHL and its leadership team. The leadership team honorees included Steele, UCHL co-founding medical student turned UConn internal medicine resident Dr. Henry Siccardi, along with ten UConn medical students including recent Class of 2024 graduate Dr. Zoha Sarwat. Plus, seven UConn undergraduate students and alumni were honored including recent UConn graduate Rose Karvandi who is starting UConn School of Medicine this August.

Learn more about UConn Health Leaders and how you can support the work of the volunteering students. 

Menopause Demystified https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/womens-health-month-topic-menopause/ Wed, 22 May 2024 14:51:45 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214591 Menopause transition is a natural part of a women’s life that is overwhelmingly viewed as taboo and stigmatized as it is associated with aging. Many suffer because they are embarrassed to talk about it and think they have to suffer with the side effects. But this isn’t true, there is help available.

During Women’s Health month we spoke with Dr. Maryanne McDonnell, OB/GYN UConn Health to shed some light on this topic:

What are the stages of menopause?
Menopause is divided into three basic stages: perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause. During this time, ovarian function first decreases and then finally stops the production of the hormones that stimulate the menstrual cycle; estrogen and progesterone.

Tell us about perimenopause, when does it start and what are the symptoms?
Perimenopause is the time which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, when women start to have symptoms and will notice changes in their menstrual cycles. It starts at different ages; the majority of women start in their 40s and it can last anywhere from six-to-eight years on average.

Perimenopause symptoms may include menstrual changes, mood changes, changes in sexual desire, depression, trouble concentrating, headaches, night sweats, hot flashes, and trouble with sleep.

Most perimenopause symptoms are manageable. But if you need help managing symptoms, medications and other treatments are available. Perimenopause ends when you’ve had no period for a full year.

What is menopause and when does it happen?
Menopause is a natural process that occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and stops producing estrogen and progesterone. It marks the end of menstrual cycles and is diagnosed after you have gone one year without a menstrual period.

Menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but the average age is 51. It can happen earlier or later in some women.

Some women experience no symptoms, while others may experience a combination of symptoms. These can be similar to perimenopause including hot flashes, night sweats, menstrual changes, vaginal dryness, sleep issues, mood changes, decreased libido, weight gain and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can sometimes last for years after menopause.

A medical professional can help manage menopause symptoms and may prescribe hormone therapy in some cases.

What does the last stage, post menopause entail?
Post menopause is the final stage of menopause and begins after a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. During post menopause, the body learns to function with lower hormone levels, and reproductive years are over. You will no longer have periods but some women do continue to experience symptoms of menopause.

What are the treatments for the symptoms of menopause?
Menopause symptoms and treatment options vary, and treatments include hormonal therapy, non-hormonal medications, and lifestyle changes. The goal is to decrease symptoms to allow for better quality of life.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – estrogen can help by replacing a small amount of the hormone lost at the time of Menopause. It can help with hot flashes, night sweats, and other side effects of menopause. When a patient is taking estrogen and still has a uterus, progesterone is added to prevent uterine cancer.

Antidepressants- Low doses of some types of antidepressants may help relieve certain menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes.

Gabapentin – a drug that is sometimes prescribed off-label to reduce hot flashes during menopause. Instead of affecting hormones, experts think it may act on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature.

Treatments for vaginal dryness – Postmenopausal vaginal dryness can cause pain during intercourse and/or recurrent urinary tract infections. There are several treatment options for vaginal dryness. Some, such as vaginal moisturizers or lubricants, are available without a prescription. Others require a prescription; these include a vaginal estrogen cream, tablet, capsule, or ring; an oral medication called ospemifene; and a non-estrogen vaginal tablet called Prasterone.

Lifestyle changes include wearing layers of clothing, keeping your bedroom cool at night, taking a cool shower, use a fan, try to reduce your stress level, avoid, or reduce potential triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine, hot drinks, smoking and alcohol, exercise regularly, and lose weight if you’re overweight.

Eating a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein, among other nutrients, and getting regular physical activity may provide relief from menopause symptoms.

There are many supplements and products on the internet and social media that claim to help with symptoms of menopause. Do these really help?
We must remember that supplements and many of the products sold online are not regulated by the FDA and have not been researched enough to confirm their effectiveness or safety.
Patients should talk to their doctor before taking any type of supplement to determine it is safe.
For those looking for natural ways to control symptoms, eating a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein, among other nutrients, and getting regular physical activity may provide relief from menopause symptoms.

Dr. McDonnell recommends women suffering from symptoms that may or may not be linked to menopause speak to their health-care provider. “You can get help with many of these symptoms you are experiencing and there is no need to do it alone”.

It’s important to know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to symptoms or treatments, but working with your practitioner, you can find one that works for you.

The Women’s Center at UConn Health offers OB/GYN services for women at every stage of their lives, providing access to award-winning doctors at a location that’s close to home. Keeping our patients in mind, we’ve brought together general obstetrics and gynecology with specialized services and imaging, making appointments even more convenient.

UConn Deepening Hartford Roots with Plans for Student Housing https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uconn-deepening-hartford-roots-with-plans-for-student-housing/ Wed, 22 May 2024 14:06:33 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214587 UConn is deepening its Hartford roots with plans to offer 200 beds of student housing in a downtown building adjacent to bustling businesses, food and entertainment venues, and space that the University is also refurbishing for academic and research use.

The UConn Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a plan to lease space at 242 Trumbull St., where the building’s owner would develop about 50 four-person units in the building’s rear area facing the vibrant Pratt Street and known as the Annex.

The units would be available for rent to UConn Hartford students starting in August 2026 if the State Bond Commission approves the financing elements involving the building’s owner and the Capital Region Development Authority; and if the owner’s construction stays on schedule.

Shelbourne Pratt Development owns the eight-story commercial building and plans to convert the four-story Annex into modern apartment-style units. UConn would then lease the space and offer it as student housing with a hall director and resident assistants, similar to the master lease and partnership in place at UConn Stamford.

The move is one of many in which UConn is working to deepen its ties with the capital city, where the University is also refurbishing space near the XL Center for academic and research use, and is opening a café for students in fall 2025 in the Hartford Times main campus building.

UConn opened the Hartford campus downtown in 2017, and has worked since then to position it as a centerpiece of a thriving capital city by bringing people downtown to learn, live, and support the regional economy.

“When UConn Hartford opened its doors seven years ago, the vision included developing deep ties to the city and its residents, synergies with local businesses and organizations, and fruitful connections with city and state government agencies,” says Anne D’Alleva, UConn’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Since that time, the campus has become both a center of learning and a center of community. The addition of student housing nearby would add to that vision immeasurably,” she adds. “We’re excited about what’s ahead as UConn’s roots continue to strengthen and deepen in Hartford in the coming years and decades.”

Interest in student housing has grown along with the campus population. UConn Hartford’s undergraduate enrollment grew by about 18% between fall 2017 and fall 2023, and an increasing number of students are choosing to start their UConn careers there.

In the most recent academic year, for instance, UConn Hartford had about 544 first-year students who entered in fall or spring; in the coming academic year that starts in August, the University projects about 595.

UConn surveyed undergraduate students at the campus in 2023 to assess their potential interest in student housing, and the results were clear: About 70% of the respondents expressed interest. However, since most said they lived with their parents, about half of them said the rent would need to be affordable to make it a viable option.

In addition to being close to potential employers and local businesses, the new student housing would be adjacent to 229 Trumbull St., an office building that fronts the XL Center and is being renovated to house UConn’s Research Innovation Center.

The space will house lecture halls, academic centers, classrooms, and faculty offices, providing opportunities to partner on support for community engagement, and on research projects and research grants.

The University of St. Joseph leased the space from 2011 through 2022, so it already is mostly ready for UConn to use without major structural renovations to the exterior or the interior layout.

It is expected to be ready for use in the coming fall semester once UConn installs telephone, data, and wireless systems, security systems, audio-visual systems, and related amenities.

To support use of the space, UConn also is leasing parking spaces in the Church Street Garage nearby for staff, faculty, and students who will access it with assigned key cards.

While the refurbishments are going on this summer at the XL Center space, another project is planned for the main campus in the Hartford Times building: a café where students can use a University dining plan to get meals and snacks between classes, helping ensure they have access to food without needing to go home if their schedules are tight.

The University originally envisioned operating a student-centric café there when it designed and opened the building, but held off in hopes that more quick-service public cafes and takeout dining options might open adjacent to the campus.

The café is anticipated to open in fall 2025. It will operate separately from the Husky Harvest food pantry, which helps to address food insecurity by providing food and other items that people can take home to prepare meals. UConn now has similar food pantries at all of its campuses, including UConn Health.

“These new and exciting living, research, teaching, and dining spaces in Hartford will expand the opportunities for our students as they connect to and learn from the rich resources the capital city has to offer. They also underscore UConn Hartford’s partnership commitment to the city as an anchor institution,” says Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, UConn Hartford’s dean and chief administrative officer.

Connecticut Adds to Invasive Plants Species List for First Time in Several Years https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/connecticut-adds-to-invasive-plants-species-list-for-first-time-in-several-years/ Wed, 22 May 2024 12:26:27 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214585 The Myths and Realities of the 2000 Camp David Summit https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/the-myths-and-realities-of-the-2000-camp-david-summit/ Wed, 22 May 2024 12:09:32 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214583 Alumnus George Schott: A Journey from Corporate Success to Classroom Impact https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/alumnus-george-schott-a-journey-from-corporate-success-to-classroom-impact/ Wed, 22 May 2024 11:30:10 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214507 Years ago, Neag School alumnus George Schott ’21 MA, a successful Stamford, Connecticut, financial services executive with a heart for community service, found himself nearing the end of a long career. Reflecting on his earlier experiences working with children at a summer camp and as a Sunday school teacher, Schott recalled his passion for nurturing young minds.

“I’ve always respected teachers,” Schott says. “And I’ve always enjoyed working with kids.”

As Schott delved deeper into community initiatives and spearheaded volunteer programs at work like the Reading Heroes for preschoolers and summer internships for high schoolers, he found immense satisfaction in empowering students to reach their full potential. Yet, it wasn’t until reading to third graders at Westover Elementary School in Stamford that Schott experienced an epiphany.

“It was a moment of clarity,” he recalls. “I knew then and there that this was what I wanted to do as a second act.”

With his 70th birthday looming, Schott made a pivotal decision to pursue his newfound calling. He explored different teaching programs and ultimately chose UConn’s Neag School of Education for its “stellar reputation and personalized approach.”

“It just felt right,” Schott explains. “I wanted to attend the best program I could find, and Neag stood out.”

Schott says he appreciated the warmth and support he received from the faculty and staff at the Neag School’s Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG): “Their genuine dedication to my success reaffirmed my decision to make a difference in children’s lives.”

It just felt right. I wanted to attend the best program I could find, and Neag stood out. — George Schott

His education journey was driven by practical considerations, a profound passion for teaching, and a deep connection to history. Schott recalls childhood memories of exploring the world of politics and stories of great leaders like the Roosevelts. He and his family were invited to meet Eleanor Roosevelt at her residence in New York based on a letter he wrote to her. That experience ignited his interest in history even more.

“I wanted to teach history,” Schott says. “It’s my passion.”

However, the practical considerations of limited openings led Schott in a different direction.  Receiving guidance and encouragement from mentors at the TCPCG program, he ultimately decided to focus on special education. His says his decision was born out of a desire to “make a difference with students in an area of critical need.”

“At the time, I had no idea I had that ability, but was willing to embrace the opportunity,” he says, reflecting on his journey of self-discovery.

Now, completing his third year as a special education teacher at the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering (AITE), an interdistrict magnet school in Stamford, Schott’s dedication to his students is evident. His face lights up as he speaks about the joys of helping them learn and grow.

“It’s about sharing life lessons in learning, teamwork, organization, and feelings,” Schott says.

He has plenty of lessons to share, having spent over four decades in the business world before finding his second career in the classroom.  Throughout his extensive professional experience in the United States and Europe, Schott accumulated a wealth of knowledge about human behavior, group dynamics, and effective communication. He understands the power of patience, encouragement, and positivity in shaping young minds.

“What works is making people feel good about themselves, building them up, and encouraging them,” he says, drawing inspiration from a quote by Maya Angelou that adorns his classroom door.

When Stamford Public Schools recognized the need for a program serving students with autism, Schott saw an opportunity to put those words into action and make a tangible impact.

Base every decision on the student’s best interests and you will get it right. It’s about nurturing and guiding the next generation towards their fullest potential. — George Schott

Armed with his business acumen and innate understanding of human nature, Schott collaborated with fellow educators to develop the Arbor Program, which holistically focuses on the students’ academic, social, and emotional growth.

“We developed a program that combines executive functioning; academic planning; social and emotional skills; and college and career planning,” he says, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive approach to special education.

Through his leadership and dedication, Schott helped foster a supportive environment where students could thrive, and educators could collaborate effectively.

“At AITE, we are one big community learning from each other,” he says. “Ultimately, I want my students to be able to be productive members of society, and AITE and the Arbor Program is where they can learn how to prepare to take their places.”

In Schott’s journey from business to the classroom, he says he found a new purpose shaping a promising future for a younger generation.

“This is why I love Neag,” he says. “The Neag School helped me transform from a marketer to an educator.”

For others considering a similar career change, Schott has some advice: make sure you love working with kids.

“Base every decision on the student’s best interests and you will get it right,” Schott says. “It’s about nurturing and guiding the next generation towards their fullest potential. Education faces critical shortages. We need more teachers who are passionate and dedicated.”

To learn more about UConn’s Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates, visit s.uconn.edu/teach.

Uncovering New Details from 1940s Milk Samples https://today.uconn.edu/2024/05/uncovering-new-details-from-century-old-milk-samples/ Wed, 22 May 2024 11:15:43 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=214241 Sometime in the 1940s or so, someone in what is now the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science got a lyophilizer, a piece of equipment that freeze-dries samples, says Director of the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) Dr. Guillermo Risatti. Risatti explains that at that time, the microbiology lab was very active in testing milk for the dairy farms in the region. With an exciting new piece of equipment, it seems they started lyophilizing hundreds of samples.

CAHNR 10th Anniversary of Health badgeThe samples have been in storage ever since. Beyond the scant details that these are milk samples containing Streptococcus bacteria from the 1940s, Risatti explains that he and his colleagues – CVMDL Research Associate Dr. Zeinab Helal, Ji-Yeon Hyeon (now at College of Veterinary Medicine, Konkuk University, Seoul, Republic of Korea), and Dong-Hun Lee (also now at College of Veterinary Medicine, Konkuk University, Seoul, Republic of Korea) – were interested in exploring their microbial history.

Risatti says that over the years, the data was lost, so researchers don’t have precise details of the provenance of the samples. But knowing a bit of history about the department, they can deduce some information.

“We believe that most of them came from Connecticut or perhaps from cases from the region, but we cannot say which parts,” Risatti says.  “Most likely, this lab provided a testing service to locals, as this was mainly a pathology lab. Now it’s more like a diagnostic lab, and we receive samples from all over the region, including New York and New Jersey.”

Learning about what these historical samples hold could help with research in unexpected ways, but the first step is piecing together the lost details. To do this, Risatti explains that the team established a workflow using standard techniques to streamline processes to analyze the visual characteristics, called phenotype, and to analyze their genotype with genomic sequencing.

Different species of Streptococcus use different strategies to inflict disease in the organisms they infect. These virulence factors are used to differentiate one species of Streptococcus from another and are one way to distinguish samples through phenotypic analysis. Another phenotypic analysis includes testing bacteria for their susceptibility to antibiotics.

The researchers started with 50 samples collected from 1941 to 1947, and they found that the samples contained seven different Streptococcus species, including two subspecies of S. dysgalactiae. Interestingly, the researchers found some of the samples were resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline and did not carry antibiotic resistance genes typically seen in today’s antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Since these samples were collected prior to the antibiotic era, the results add to a growing body of literature showing that antibiotic resistance occurred naturally before humans discovered and began to use antibiotics.

“Antibiotic resistance is a very big area of research, and it has been for many years,” says Risatti. “We did not go any further with our analysis because we don’t have the tools here, but we hope to bring this information to the public. I think it could be the jumpstart for somebody to study further.”

Risatti explains the hope is to partner with large agencies like the CDC and the Department of Public Health to help bolster antibiotic resistance research.

In developing the workflow, Risatti also praised the work of students Jillian Baron ‘24 (CAHNR) and Patricia Arceta ‘24 (CAHNR):

“This is a good platform for undergraduate students to gain experience and publish their findings. I am surprised by how eager these young people are. I am glad we can provide the space to do these things.”

With an eye toward the future, Risatti is excited about potential future collaborations: “I hope that people can see a link between what we do at CVMDL and human health.”