5 Questions With Mei Wei

By Kelly A. Salzo

Professor Mei Wei (MSE/IMS) joined UConn’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2002 as assistant professor. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales in Australia in 1998, she completed her postdoctoral study at Kyoto University Japan and at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. Dr. Wei’s current research focuses on fabrication of novel tissue engineering scaffolds for bone and osteochondral repair, biomimetic apatite coatings for bone repair and drug/protein carrier, synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles/nanoworms for contrast agent, cancer treatment and drug delivery, establishment of in vivo time-lapsed imaging platform for in situ visualization of cell-scaffold interplay, and development of dense apatite-polymer fiber absorbable composites as bone fixation devices.

faculty weiThe Connecticut Technology Council (CTC) named Dr. Wei one of the 2007 Women of Innovation for serving as exceptional role models to future generations of female leaders in the STEM fields. In 2013 she was elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) and also became Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in 2013. In 2015, she was appointed as the Associate Editor of Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, a major journal in the biomaterials field.

We sat down with Mei Wei to talk about her experiences as a professor, her role as Associate Dean, and her reaction to receiving the Women of Innovation award.

How did you become involved in materials science & engineering and why did you decide to become a professor?
 I followed the footstep of my parents, both of whom are professors in materials science and engineering. With a special interest in medicine, I decided to work on biomaterials.

In 2007 you received the Women of Innovation award. What has been your experience as a woman in a STEM field?
 Women are still a minority in engineering, although the percentage of women in engineering has been increasing in the past a few years. Many of our female faculty members were the first females in their departments. Traditionally, it is believed that engineering is a men-only field. However, more and more women have proved to society that women can be successful in engineering. This is an important message to send to the community and to young female students to encourage young, talented minds to pursue STEM studies.

Why did you decide to take on the demanding role of Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education?
As a senior female faculty in engineering, I feel a responsibility to help the junior faculty and graduate students, especially the female faculty and students. A large proportion of my duty as the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education is devoted to junior faculty and graduate students mentoring. We would like to create a nurturing and friendly environment for faculty and students to conduct research and study.

What advice can you offer to students who are pursuing a career in materials science and engineering?
 Materials science and engineering is an area full of potential and promises. The study and research may not always go smoothly. Be persistent and you will see the bright future.

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