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Updated: May 13, 2024

UMaine, USM partner to advance medical research, life sciences and faculty development

2 hands with lab equipments Photo / Courtesy, University of Maine The University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine have a pilot partnership underway in pursuit of medical and life science advancements as well as professional development opportunities.

The University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine in Portland say they are now working together to help advance the field of medicine and life sciences in the state, as well as to create new opportunities for professional development. 

Leveraging resources in both locations, researchers plan to explore topics such as the use of new technology in fighting cancer, the development of unique materials for medical devices, and the spread of disease by mosquitoes.

The pilot partnership is led by UMaine’s Institute of Medicine and provides fellowships to USM faculty. 

“I applaud the Institute of Medicine for establishing more pathways for faculty at UMaine and across Maine’s public universities to collaborate on meaningful medical research with global impact and local relevance,” said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy in a news release.

The program capitalizes on UMaine’s longstanding research capabilities and USM’s proximity to prospective industry partners in Portland. The program is intended to offer professional development opportunities for USM faculty, the knowledge and skills from which could help them gain grant funding for future projects and build a stronger research partnership between the universities. 

Participants in the inaugural program from USM have become affiliate faculty with UMaine’s Institute of Medicine. They include Catherine Miller, assistant professor of biological sciences; Amir Kordijazi, assistant professor of industrial engineering; and Asheesh Lanba, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. 

Each has a primary mentor and additional faculty support from UMaine.

Miller is collaborating with Allison Gardner, a UMaine associate professor of arthropod vector biology, to study infections transmitted by insects with a primary focus on mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as West Nile fever. Miller will also work with James Dill and Thomas Rounsville Jr. from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, who focus on tick-borne diseases.

Kordijazi's primary mentor is Thomas Schwartz, a UMaine associate professor of chemical engineering. Kordijazi will investigate the efficacy of using optical imaging devices to identify chemical interactions in disease states, such as cancer. The two will collaborate on the project with UMaine engineering faculty Karissa Tilbury, Caitlin Howell and David Neivandt. 

Lanba is receiving guidance from Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Lanba’s goal is to devise new composite materials for developing medical devices and implants. ASCC researchers Andrew Gifford, Emily Stauffer and Jared Palmer will also participate in the project. 

“Their collective expertise will contribute to new knowledge and scientific advances as we work together to solve complex health and medical problems,” said Jacqueline Edmondson, the president of USM.

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