The Center for Undergraduate Research welcomes Howell as Associate Director

Caitlin Howell has been appointed as Associate Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) effective March 1, 2023.

Howell is an associate professor of Bioengineering in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering.

Before joining UMaine, Howell worked as Technology Development Fellow with Joanna Aizenberg at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, where she focused on developing and translating bio-inspired technology to the market. Prior to that, she completed her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and her M.S. in Biology at the University of Maine. 

At UMaine, Howell works to integrate researchers of all experience levels – undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate – in an environment built on excitement for high-quality science and the good it can do in the world.

“Dr. Howell is a CUGR Faculty Fellow (class of 2018-2020) and one of our most active and engaged faculty mentors, with demonstrated high-quality research as evidenced by the number of highly competitive awards won by students in her research group”, said Associate Vice President Abedi. “We have worked with Dr. Howell in the past, planning the UMSS18, and are excited to welcome her to CUGR in a more formal capacity to grow this decade-old program even further and serve more students.”

“I started my college career as an undergraduate researcher in the labs over in Hitchner. It was an incredibly transformational experience,” says Howell. “When I came back to UMaine in 2016 I was so happy to see the University formally supporting undergraduate research and creative expression through CUGR. Providing an opportunity for all undergraduates here to benefit from the intellectual engagement and confidence boost that comes from creating knowledge or art is increasingly critical.” 

She teaches undergraduate courses in biomedical engineering. She also teaches graduate courses in advanced materials which focus on bio-inspired material systems.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to further serve the UMaine undergraduate community and work to expand their access to research and creative expression opportunities,” says Howell. “Our students have so much passion and energy, and being able to see that translated into work that they can share with the community is one of the best parts of being a faculty member here.”

Howell’s recent research focuses on guiding the interactions of biomolecules, micro-organisms and cells using nontoxic, noninvasive surface-based methods to accomplish specific goals. She leads a team of researchers at the UMaine Biointerface and Biomimetics Lab studying different coatings that can help prevent protein deposition that could lead to urinary tract and blood infections.

Last year, Howell received news that she was awarded $500,000 in support from Open Philanthropy to support the next steps of this research, which is translating the technology to the market. The team will be working on intellectual property protection and licensing; customer discovery and market analysis; and beginning the FDA approval process.

Through competitive grants and University-sponsored funds, Howell has been awarded over $2.4M of independent funding while training 10 graduate students and 49 undergraduates in her laboratory.

The Center for Undergraduate Research was established in 2012 to facilitate faculty-mentored research, scholarship and creative activities for undergraduate students across all academic disciplines, and is home to the annual UMaine Student Symposium, which is planned in conjunction with UM Student Government and Graduate Student Government with financial support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School