Highest Honor of Materials Research Society Awarded to UConn Health Professor Cato T. Laurencin

Dr. Laurencin seated in office
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo).

The Materials Research Society has named UConn Health’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin as the recipient of the 2020 Von Hippel Award, the society’s highest and most prestigious honor.

“I am honored to be the recipient of one of the highest honors in the world for work in materials science, the Von Hippel Award of the Materials Research Society,” said Laurencin

According to the Materials Research Society: “The award recognizes an individual with qualities most prized by materials scientists and engineers—brilliance and originality of intellect, combined with vision that transcends the boundaries of conventional scientific disciplines.”

Laurencin’s work in engineering, science, medicine and technology has been recognized in a number of ways. In engineering, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and received the Simon Ramo Founders Award. In medicine, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and received the Walsh McDermott Medal. In science,  Laurencin is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize “for signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States.” In technology, Laurencin is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor bestowed in America for technological achievement, from President Barack Obama in ceremonies at the White House.

In materials science, Laurencin is a pioneer in polymeric materials science for musculoskeletal systems. He produced seminal research work and discoveries in patents and papers on polymeric nanofiber technology, ushering in the field of nanomaterials for tissue regeneration. His work in published papers and patents focusing on polymer-ceramic systems inspired the development of biocomposite materials including interference screws for which he was named “One of the 100 Engineers of the Modern Era” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at their centennial celebration. Fundamental research on polymeric fiber system for soft tissue regeneration has led to a number of soft tissue regenerative systems including the Laurencin-Copper (LC) bioengineered anterior cruciate ligament, now in humans. His work on engineered materials for soft tissue regeneration was highlighted by National Geographic Magazine in its “100 Scientific Discoveries that Changed the World” edition. He has worked with industry on the development and understanding of systems combining polymeric materials and allograft human tissue, creating technologies helping patients throughout the world.

The founder of the field of Regenerative Engineering, Laurencin’s new work focuses on the convergence of advanced materials science including nanotechnology, biophysics, medicine, and developmental biology. At the University of Connecticut, he leads the Hartford Engineering a Limb (HEAL) project, aimed at regenerating a limb by 2030. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation currently fund his research work. He is the recipient of both the NIH Director’s Pioneer Grant Award and the NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Grant Award.

In Materials Science and Engineering, Laurencin is a fellow of the Materials Research Society and has been the Fred Kavli Distinguished Lecturer and Plenary Speaker for the Materials Research Society. He has served as the Edward Orton, Jr., Memorial Lecturer and the Rustum Roy Lecturer for the American Ceramic Society. Laurencin is the recipient of the Acta Biomateriala Gold Medal which honors pioneers in the field of biomaterials, whose accomplishments in discovery and translation to practice are surpassing and well known in the field. In addition, the Society for Biomaterials has honored him by creating the Cato T. Laurencin Travel Fellowship which supports underrepresented students of color in the field of biomaterials.

Laurencin is a designated University Professor at the University of Connecticut, one of only two currently at the school. He serves as the Chief Executive Officer of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. At UConn Health he is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and a professor of chemical engineering, materials sciences, and biomedical engineering. He is also a core faculty member of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut.

Laurencin received his B.S.E in chemical engineering from Princeton University, and his M.D., magna cum laude, from the Harvard Medical School, receiving the Robinson Award for Surgery from National Medical Fellowships. He received his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering/biotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was named a Hugh Hampton Young Fellow.