On Tuesday, April 12th we had the privilege of having Dr. Kathryn Uhrich, current Dean of Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, as our last speaker for the 2015-2016 Distinguished Lecture Series. She is a distinguished polymer chemist and began her tenure as dean of CNAS on January 1st 2016. Previously, she served from 2009 through 2013 as Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University. Uhrich earned a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Cornell University and her BS in Chemistry, with honors, from the University of North Dakota. In her work at Rutgers, she championed for enhanced STEM education for women and people of color.
As dean, Uhrich worked with department and the university to ensure inclusive practices for faculty-from faculty hiring to faculty promotion and recognition. As a board member of the Rutgers’ Office for the Promotion of Women, Science and Engineering and Mathematics, Uhrich worked to foster supportive environment for students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. As a researcher, Uhrich’s interest in mentoring the next generation of scientists is reflected by the composition and size of her research team: she’s supervised 60 PhD students from four departments and more than 80 undergraduate students. In addition to her status as a fellow of the American Chemical Society, she is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bioactive and Compatible Polymers and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Her talk was mostly focused on her absolutely fascinating invention, polyasprin, and it’s evolution throughout her career. She explained many of its uses, such as biodegradable stitches, cardiac stents and periodontal treatment. Other applications of her work include controlling bone growth, wound care, medical device coatings, dermatology medications, personal care and cosmetic products, urinary catheters, controlled release of opiates, steroid sparing joint pain injectables, nerve, and biofilm prevention.
Dr. Uhrich also mentioned the work it took to bring her inventions and implementing them. As she mentioned, translating research into a company is not easy but it is amazing to see an academic invention affecting people’s lives in a positive way. She put a quote up on the powerpoint that read “Don’t do it unless you’re crazy, starting a company is an irrational and unnatural act”, this was something one of her colleagues had once told her. She has continued to be successful within her various companies and inventions.
Uhrich shared that her inspiration for her invention first arose when she was teaching an Organic Chemistry course at 8am. She also shared that her husband and sports keep her motivated as well because of the positive aspects they bring into her life. She wrapped up by telling our students to continue to work hard toward your dreams and to be bold, brave and fearless.
Thank you, Dr. Uhrich for a great lecture to end the year with!
Maria Perez, Health Science Pre-Med
College of Health Science