Making Research Connections at UConn

Riley Blumenfield, a materials science and engineering student, discovered her passion for research thanks to Research Connections, an annual networking event for students and faculty. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo)
Riley Blumenfield, a materials science and engineering student, discovered her passion for research thanks to Research Connections, an annual networking event for students and faculty. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo)

Riley Blumenfield, a materials science and engineering student, Honors Program STEM scholar, and president of engineering sorority Phi Sigma Rho came to UConn knowing she wanted to be involved with research, but she didn’t know where to start.

After attending an annual event to expose undergrads to a host of opportunities, she not only found a unique lab experience, but also discovered a passion for polymers that she never knew she had.

Over the last year, she has been working in the lab of Dr. Cato Laurencin, an internationally recognized expert in tissue and regenerative engineering working to regenerate human limbs by 2030.

Blumenfield works closely with Kenneth Ogueri, a Ph.D. candidate in the Laurencin lab at UConn Health who synthesizes and studies polymer blends to be used as scaffolding in the regeneration of bone tissue. Last semester, Blumenfield helped create thin films of the polymers for mechanical testing, and this semester she will study how the polymer degrades in in vitro conditions.

To land this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Blumenfield took advantage of an informational networking event that helps students learn more about UConn research and make connections with researchers across academic disciplines who involve undergraduates in their research projects.

Organized through a collaboration between UConn’s Office of First Year Programs, Learning Communities & Academic Achievement Center and the Office of Undergraduate Research, Research Connections exposes first and second year students to undergraduate research by engaging in meaningful interactions with faculty, staff, graduate students, peers and other key partners.

Blumenfield credits finding her research experience to the Research Connections event. For Blumenfield, Research Connections helped make the process of finding a research opportunity less intimidating and more accessible.

“It can be intimidating to request a meeting with a professor that you would like to work with, so knowing that someone is actively recruiting undergraduates is reassuring.”

Blumenfield’s future plans include continuing to employ regenerative engineering to find innovative technologies.

“My main goal for the future stems from an obsession with Spider Man. I want to invent the web fluid he uses! I am sure my career will take me along various paths, but I truly love research and believe that through the intersection of polymers and nanomaterials, I can achieve my dreams.”

This year’s Research Connections event will take place on Oct. 17 in Werth Tower. Click here to RSVP or register when you arrive.

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