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Community Engagement Event Increases Awareness and Impact of Medical Research

Community Engagement Event Increases Awareness and Impact of Medical Research




Elizabeth Muscari is the Communications Manager at the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research.

ENGAGE conference presenters and volunteers.

The Biomedical Engineering Department Community and Student Engagement Committee organized the first “Biomed ENGAGE” conference earlier this summer to provide graduate students with an opportunity to engage with the public and present their research in a public forum.

The conference, held at the Fayetteville Public Library, covered a variety of topics, including regenerative medicine, genome engineering, neural engineering, biomedical imaging, machine learning and organ-on-a-chip platforms.

Professor Raj Rao said that one of the objectives of the conference was to educate the public about the importance of biomedical research in particular and scientific research in general.

“It is extremely important that the next generation is educated to consistently advocate for research in today’s world. Equally important is to communicate the impact of research and how it relates to our daily lives,” said Rao, chair of the committee.

According to American Institute for Medical and Biological EngineeringAs the fields grow and take new forms, research funding becomes more difficult to obtain, and student populations and desired academic experiences change, many educational programs are undergoing tremendous change. The Institute, a nonprofit organization representing the most accomplished individuals in medical and biological engineering, recognizes the urgent need for all stakeholders to advocate for medical and biological engineering and its benefits to society.

Under the leadership of Biomedical Engineering Department Chair Jeffrey Wolchok, the department has invested in the Community and Student Engagement Scholarship. Scholars are selected based on their leadership potential and ability to contribute to new initiatives and programs.

The three members, who serve two-year terms, are Alexis Applequist, Wenbo Xu, and Katherine Miranda Munoz. In this capacity, members coordinate with Rao and assistant professor Leonard Harris to identify the best approaches for community engagement, student success and well-being, and to contribute to creating a more equitable, diverse, and welcoming place to learn, work, and conduct interdisciplinary research across intellectual boundaries.

PhD candidate Applequist emphasized the need for clear communication between scientists and the broader society.

“As graduate students in STEM, it is critical to be able to effectively communicate our work and its importance. However, most of us have only developed this skill in very technical settings, such as academic research conferences, with colleagues from similar fields,” he said. “If we cannot explain our scientific work in understandable terms, it is impossible to inspire the next generation and connect with our communities. This conference provided a unique opportunity to hone our scientific communication skills and share our valuable research with the broader community.”

The following graduate students were recognized for their efforts at the conference:

  • Alexis Applequist — most influential research (Mentor: Kartik Balachandran)
  • Anelisse Claros Mendieta — best presenter (Mentor: Jeffrey Wolchok)
  • Arianna Ortega Sanabria — best poster (Mentor: Ranu Jung)
  • Amira Amin — committee selection for participation (Mentor: Will Richardson)

“This was a wonderful event,” Wolchok said. “I applaud the Community Engagement Fellows and Dr. Rao for both designing and organizing it.”

Learn more About the Biomedical Engineering Department Community and Student Involvement Committee.