100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era

By Kristina Goodnough

graphicDr. Cato T. Laurencin, vice president for health affairs at the UConn Health Center and dean of the medical school, has been named among “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The recognition from the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals acknowledges Laurencin’s work in tissue engineering to develop materials to promote bone repair and wound healing.

Specifically, AIChE recognized Laurencin for development of a novel polymer-synthesized, ceramic composite-based system for bone repair and in vitro evaluation.

“This is a wonderful honor, made possible by the collective work of the colleagues on my research team,” says Laurencin, who received the recognition as part of the organization’s centennial celebration.

The recognition is designed to highlight individuals who have contributed to the profession during the “Modern Era,” the years following World War II. The awards will be presented at the AIChE’s annual meeting in Philadelphia next month.

An orthopedic surgeon as well as a chemical engineer, Laurencin has focused much of his research on the development of materials to assist in treating orthopedic trauma and performing reconstructive surgeries and arthroplasties.

“The synthetic materials are biodegradable polymers or plastics made from specific compounds that are absorbed into the body as part of the healing process,” he says.

“Besides aiding in tissue repair and regeneration, these new materials don’t need to be removed like traditional materials.”

Mun Choi, dean of the School of Engineering, says, “Through the AIChE recognition, Dr. Laurencin has taken his rightful position alongside leading figures in the field.”

Laurencin also has an appointment in the engineering school as a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“Dr. Laurencin has helped to expand the boundaries of chemical engineering and its influence on emerging technologies through his research and training activities in regenerative medicine and advanced polymer synthesis,” Choi adds.

“We are very fortunate to have someone of his stature and reputation as a colleague at UConn.”

Earlier this year, Laurencin was recognized by Scientific American for his work developing a bioengineered matrix to regenerate an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

“The fiber matrix design mimics that of the ACL, which allows the patient’s own cells to regenerate the ligament,” says Laurencin.

“Our hope is to ultimately create a ligament that will allow a patient to restart major physical activity sooner. Any solution that can speed up the healing and long-term function is hugely important to patients.”

Laurencin joined the University in August. He holds the Van Dusen Endowed Chair in Academic Medicine and is a professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reprinted, with permission, from the October 20, 2008 issue of The UConn Advance

Categories: chemical engineering, composite-based system, emagination, polymer-synthesized, UConn Health Center