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Renowned Professor to Lead Bioengineering Research Efforts

Monday, October 9, 2006

[Dr. Paulette Spencer]

Paulette Spencer, a nationally known researcher in bio-synthetic materials that replace diseased oral and skeletal tissues, will lead bioengineering research efforts at the University of Kansas.

"Dr. Spencer is uniquely qualified to lead KU's bioengineering research programs — a growth component not only for KU but also for the life sciences initiative in Kansas City and the region," said Stuart Bell, dean of the School of Engineering.

Spencer is a leader in the development of biomaterials that can be used to replace natural skeletal or oral tissues lost due to trauma, disease or age. She considers her interests "one of the most exciting areas of investigation in both medicine and dentistry."

"I have had a wonderful experience building a program with my colleagues in the UMKC School of Dentistry, but the growth in my research has led me to consider the opportunities within a major bioengineering research environment," Spencer said. "That is what the University of Kansas offers, and I'm pleased to be able to pursue this without leaving the area.

"I look forward to being a part of major advances in bioengineering that will benefit the entire Kansas City region and its goal to be a life sciences hub."

Spencer will head a bioengineering research contingent of close to two dozen faculty members, including three at the KU Medical Center and 20 divided between the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering on KU's Lawrence campus. She will begin working with the KU faculty in the spring 2007 semester. Spencer will become a Deane E. Ackers distinguished professor in the School of Engineering. She will be the first woman in the engineering school's history to hold a distinguished professorship. She currently is a Curators' professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she directs the Center for Research on Interfacial Structure and Properties.

Spencer's background in the medical/dental field and materials science will allow her to build research relationships between medicine, dentistry and engineering. Under Spencer's leadership, the KU bioengineering research program will have connections with researchers and projects over the two-state metropolitan region, with labs, offices and connection points at UMKC, the KU Medical Center and Midwest Research Institute.

Spencer said her objective is to integrate bioengineering efforts among the institutions with the result of producing products, devices and procedures that benefit humans and improve their quality of life. The effort will incorporate engineers, medical and dental researchers, clinicians and students.

"Time to Get it Right: A Strategy for Higher Education in Kansas City," a 2005 task force report, points to bioengineering as "a key element in building life sciences capacity that can generate innovation and economic growth."

The overarching goal of KU's bioengineering effort is to help build the Kansas City Life Science constituencies into an internationally known consortium, unmatched in its relationships and able to provide exceptional educational opportunities, economic growth and most important, novel care to the people of the region.

With more than 18 years of experience, Spencer is the Hamilton B.G. Robinson professor in the departments of Oral Biology and Pediatric Dentistry at UMKC. Her research efforts focus on biomaterials and understanding the biological interactions of materials at common boundaries.

This arrangement will bring a variety of scientific disciplines together in multiple interdisciplinary efforts. Bioengineering often provides the crossing point between basic life sciences research and clinical needs and applications, creating new drugs and drug delivery systems, medical devices and procedures.

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