A UConn Biomedical Engineering professor engaged in pioneering tissue research has won a NASA contract to fabricate therapeutic biomaterials under low gravity conditions aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Associate Professor Yupeng Chen and his team of six graduate and eight undergraduate students will work with astronauts aboard the ISS doing experiments aimed at advancing in-space manufacturing concepts for the production of potentially marketable biomaterials for use in therapeutic and regenerative treatments here on earth for arthritis, cancer, and neurological diseases. The $1.86 million contract is one of eight winning proposals submitted in response to a NASA Research Announcement seeking space production applications for three low-Earth orbit (LEO) missions scheduled over 27 months.
Chen, who is PI of the project, will work with two partners – UConn spinoff, Eascra Biotech of Boston, and Axiom Space, a private aerospace company based in Houston, Texas – to conduct a proof-of-concept study aboard the ISS involving the fabrication of Janus base nanomaterials (JBN), a family of novel biomaterials that mimic DNA. The collaboration combines Axiom’s experience in spaceflight operations and space infrastructure development with Eascra’s expertise in the development of advanced biomaterials and project management, including venture capital fundraising and implementation of future product commercialization initiatives associated with the project. Two of the flights will be funded by NASA and one flight will be supported by Axiom’s private astronaut mission in spring 2023.
“This project will establish a roadmap to commercialize the in-space manufacturing strategy for a family of DNA-inspired Janus base nanomaterials used for tissue regeneration,” says Chen. “Leveraging the benefits of microgravity in the fabrication process has the potential to deliver more orderly JBN structures to achieve better structural integrity and therapeutic outcomes.”
Article Originally Published on UConn Today
Leaders from industry, along with policymakers and elected officials from the state and federal governments met with UConn engineers in Hartford on Monday, Oct. 24 to discuss New England’s electric grid and how it can be made more resilient over the next five years in the face of climate change and geopolitical strain.
“Everything we design at UConn, we design thinking about the future,” said University of Connecticut President Radenka Maric, praising students for their passion and call to action on climate. She challenged the conference to be a force for change. “We have one planet, and we all have to work on a solution,” Maric said.
UConn has long been a leader in energy and grid research, with a particular concentration of expertise in fuel cells and analysis of extreme weather events on the grid. And the University just announced a new partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) last week, becoming just the fifth university in the East to partner with the lab. The partnership will provide more opportunities for funding and for UConn students to work with NREL researchers directly.
NREL’s Deputy Lab Director for Science and Technology and Chief Research Officer Peter Green gave the keynote address.
“We want to redesign the grid, knowing that cybercrime is going up, renewables are getting cheaper and extreme weather events are increasing,” said Green. The kinds of research we need to enable this resilient grid, Green said, include ways to harvest and transport hydrogen, better power electronics, and a “circular economy” that includes systems to recycle the materials in everything from batteries to wind turbines so they can be reused.
The circular grid is a key part of Connecticut’s strategy, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. DEEP has a whole team focused on battery recycling, for example. Businesses manufacturing and recycling batteries, fuel cells and other components of an advanced electric grid will be a driver of the state’s economy in the future.
Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) Chairman Marissa Gillett discussed the state’s near term grid resilience strategies in more detail. Distributed energy and microgrids, which use small sources of electric storage and generation to keep the power on in a small, critical area such as a hospital or downtown during times when the broader grid fails, are one of 11 tracks Connecticut is pursuing to enhance resilience. Increasing energy storage among small businesses and manufacturers is another. Such storage can be aggregated and then dispatched back to the grid as necessary to balance spikes in demand. These types of efforts demand the kind of engineering know how and innovation that UConn produces.
“UConn is a research powerhouse and the Northeast’s preeminent public research university. Across all disciplines, from engineering to marine science to human rights and the fine arts, our faculty apply knowledge to make a difference in the lives of our students, our state, and our country,” UConn VP of Research Pamir Alpay said.
Article Originally Published on UConn Today
When scientists are testing out new drug treatments or trying to model a disease, they usually rely on human tissue samples from whatever kind of tissue they’re targeting. This method can be expensive, and samples are often difficult to come by.
The development of a new technology known as organoids offers a promising pathway to address these challenges.
Organoids are models of different human tissues that allow scientists to test new treatments without the use of real human tissue samples. Organoids are grown in the lab from stem cells and make miniature models of the human brain, heart, or other organs and tissues.
However, the use of these organoids has been severely limited by the fact that they are much less complex than our actual tissues in terms of structure and function. They also face issues growing and developing past a certain point, as scientists can’t effectively deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells at the core of the organoid.
Assistant Professor Xueju “Sophie” Wang in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has received a $643,591 Trailblazer Award from the National Institutes of Health to develop innovative technical solutions to these limitations, in collaboration with co-investigators Yi Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Yan Li of Florida State University.
Wang will develop and evaluate two technologies through this grant. The first is a 3-D electronic network that will stimulate the organoid and allow researchers to monitor it in 3-D. Currently, scientists usually evaluate the organoids in two dimensions, meaning it’s difficult to understand their 3-D functioning.
The device will allow scientists to monitor the organoid’s microenvironment, including temperature, oxygen levels, and optogenetics, which is controlling the activity of neurons with light.
The device will also use electric impulses to stimulate the organoid to help it develop more complexity as the cells differentiate during the growth process.
The brain organoids Wang will be working with look like lumpy balls of cells, about the size of a pea. A more complex brain organoid will have more layers that scientists have previously been able to achieve.
Wang will implant her tiny device into a brain organoid from the start of its development to observe how it interacts with the organoid.
Secondly, Wang will develop a microvasculature that mimics the function of human blood vessels. This will allow scientists to deliver the oxygen and nutrients the organoid needs to grow and develop.
“We look forward to seeing what the interaction will look like because this is one of the first studies in the field to see how the electronics and microfluidics interface with biological tissues,” Wang says.
Wang will send the mini device for organoids out to Li for evaluation. Li is an expert in developing brain organoids and will help Wang evaluate the efficacy of her devices.
While Wang will focus on brain organoids, her technologies could be applied to other organoids as well.
“We hope we can develop those complicated organoids that represent or resemble the real human organs so we can use them, for example, for drug screening, or for developing disease models without using real human samples,” Wang says.
UConn School of Engineering is proud to announce the Clean Energy Workshop on October 24th, 2022 in Hartford, Connecticut. This workshop is aimed at exploring research and collaboration among state and federal government organizations, academia, and industry to create new clean and sustainable sources of power and methods for delivery, reliability and security. The workshop will feature different visions, insights on policy and implementation plans and associated socio-technical challenges to decarbonize the energy sector and combat climate change.
We’re excited to see you at the Energy Conference in less than a week!
If you haven’t already, claim your registration now at the lower rate by October 17, 2022 at 5:00 pm.
Deadline to register is October 20, 2022 at 5:00 pm.
Registration fees include parking, continental breakfast, all breaks, lunch, and a reception.
General: $150; after 10/17/22: $175
UConn Faculty: $100; after 10/17/22: $125
UConn Students: $50; after 10/17/22: $75
The deadline to lock in the lower rate is October 17, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. The preferred way for payment internally is by KFS number. For any questions, please contact University Events and Conference Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.486.1038.
For more information on the workshop and to register, please click here
Over the course of a senior design project, students face many ups and downs. This podcast, produced by the UConn School of Engineering, dives into the journey, the group dynamics, and the emotions experienced during this year-long project.
Every year, nearly 100 sponsors work with hundreds of UConn Engineering seniors on real-world engineering problems for their Senior Design project. By participating, organizations get real-world engineering problem-solving at a fraction of the price, backed by expert faculty advisors; face-to-face access with a talented pool of engineering undergraduates on the verge of entering the workforce; and most importantly, gain the ability to mentor the next generation of engineering leaders.
By: Eli Freund, Editorial Communications Manager, UConn School of Engineering
In a coalition of schools led by the University of Maine, the University of Connecticut School of Engineering will be a participant in the Region 1 University Transportation Center: Transportation Infrastructure Durability Center (TIDC), funded by a five-year $14.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
According to a release from the University of Maine, the TIDC will aim to help save taxpayer dollars by extending the life of our transportation assets, including bridges, roads and rail, and in addition to partnering with UConn, the Maine-led TIDC will also partner with the University of Rhode Island, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the University of Vermont, and Western New England University.
Additional partners include representatives from the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), Vermont Agency of Transportation, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT), Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Transportation and Development Institute.
Working with state DOTs, the new TIDC will seek to identify new materials and technologies that maximize the impact of transportation infrastructure investments. The center will work along four pathways: 1. develop improved road and bridge monitoring and assessment tools; 2. develop better ways to strengthen existing bridges to extend their life; 3. use new materials and systems to build longer-lasting new bridges and accelerate construction; and 4. use new connectivity tools to enhance asset and performance management while promoting workforce development, the release said.
TIDC will harness the experience of 28 faculty researchers, including a team of five engineering faculty members from UConn, led by Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Professor Ramesh B. Malla, and will train 280 student researchers from all New England states. It will focus on real infrastructure needs identified by DOT partners, and prioritize extending the life of existing transportation assets to ensure cost-effectiveness.
For more information on the center, click here to read the release from the University of Maine.
After graduating with an electrical engineering degree from UConn in 1993, Judge Jean R. Homere discovered by happenstance the field of patent law – a field that he believes to be largely unknown among engineering students across the country, despite the many exceptional opportunities it stands to offer them.
Currently an Administrative Patent Judge at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Judge Homere has steadfastly worked his way up the corporate ladder for the past 17 years. He was hired by a UConn alumnus in 1994 to work at the USPTO as a Patent Examiner, reviewing patent applications to determine whether claimed inventions should be granted a patent. Simultaneously, he was pursuing his graduate studies at various universities in the Washington, DC area. By 2003, Judge Homere had acquired his law degree from George Mason University and transitioned to new role as a Supervisory Patent Examiner managing technology units of 15 Patent Examiners. Next, he became a Legal Advisor at the USPTO’s office of patent legal administration, providing legal assistance to USPTO personnel regarding various matters pertaining to patent law. Presently, Judge Homere hears appeals pertaining to adverse decisions of Patent Examiners on patent applications in electrical, computing, and business methods disciplines.
The USPTO hires anywhere from 1,000-1,200 engineers each year, and serves as an excellent outlet for like-minded individuals. According to Judge Homere, all engineering students should be made aware of this type of career opportunity. They should not have to “stumble into it” serendipitously.
“As an undergraduate, I had no idea that engineering could be intertwined with law in this fashion to open so many doors. I only hope that engineering schools across the country become more aware of this, and strive to do a better job at disseminating these types of career opportunities to their engineering students,” said Judge Homere. “Patent Law can be a very rewarding career path. It offers a viable alternative to engineering students who are not particularly enthused with the idea of working in traditional engineering settings,” said Judge Homere. “This is exactly the career path that I always wanted to pursue. I am sure many engineering students would give serious considerations to this field if they knew about it. ”
Although his current success can be attributed to years of hard work and education, Judge Homere still reflects upon his choice of majors, and the decision to come to UConn, as among the best decisions he could have made. “[UConn] truly was a great experience overall,” he said. “The engineering program was excellent, and my advisors, Professors Charles Knapp and Rajeev Bansal, helped me along every step of the way. UConn provided me with a well-rounded education, and I owe a lot of my success to that program.”
In between earning his BSE degree at UConn and his JD degree from George Mason University in 2003, Judge Homere also earned an M.S. in Information Systems from George Washington University in 1997 and a Master of Legal Administration degree from Marymount University School of Business three years later. He is a member of the DC Bar and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.