Dr. Debra Auguste moves to CUNY
Auguste, newly appointed associate professor of biomedical engineering at City Univeristy of New York, received her S.B. in Chemical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999 and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University in 2005. She most recently ran the Auguste Lab for Bioresponsive Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering at Harvard University. Before joining Harvard, she was a postdoctoral Associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 2004-2006.
She is among the 13th annual 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology. Innovation & Equity 2013: Keeping America First in Technology: Public Innovation and Supplier Diversity examines the promise of biotechnology and other cutting edge fields to create jobs and new industries.
Her success is all the more notable because of the findings of a study announced today in the Journal of the National Academy of Science by Yale University researchers which showed female researchers receiving lower evaluations, less mentoring opportunities and lower starting salaries.
Another study by the National Institutes of Health last year found similar results for African-Americans in the sciences.
Auguste's focus is to develop novel biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue engineering. We are interested in directing the behavior and differentiation of cells, in most cases human embryonic stem cells, by controlling their three-dimensional cellular microenvironment. The design criteria requires the synthesis of new, biomimetic materials in coordination with regulating the rate of molecule release, immune response, targeting, and degradation. These systems are investigated for potential use in cell-based therapies.
"Cells receive information from their environment from both mechanical and chemical signaling," she explains. "Biodegradable materials have been designed for tissue repair and for the controlled release of molecules. These materials may provide a surface for cells to adhere and proliferate or a conduit for encapsulation and release of molecules. We are interested in material-cell interactions that result in changes in cell behavior over periods of time using bioactive environments that activate or inhibit cellular processes. We examine the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, the precursors of all organ tissues, to learn how they respond to chemical and environmental cues to become dedicated cells."
The bioeconomy emerged as an Administration priority because of its tremendous potential for growth and job creation as well as the many other societal benefits it offers. A more robust bioeconomy can enable Americans to live longer and healthier lives, develop new sources of bioenergy, address key environmental challenges, transform manufacturing processes, and increase the productivity and scope of the agricultural sector while generating new industries and occupational opportunities.
A growing U.S. population requires increased health services and more material resources including food, animal feed, fiber for clothing and housing, and sources of energy and chemicals for manufacturing. Recent advances in the biological sciences are allowing more and more of these needs to be met not with petroleum-based products and other non-renewable resources but with materials that are quite literally home-grown.
Indeed, the convergence of biology with engineering and other sciences—including physics, chemistry, and computer sciences—is proving to have tremendous power to generate new scientific discoveries, new products, new markets, and new high-skilled jobs.
The benefits can be seen in every sector of the economy, from agriculture to healthcare and from energy production to environmental monitoring and stewardship. Biobased materials are also proving to be excellent and sustainable substitutes for hydrocarbon-based raw materials in a number of industrial and manufacturing processes.
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