Camila Uzcategui was one of two CU Boulder students to receive a $15,000 Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) scholarship this year. PEO is a philanthropic organization founded in 1869 to celebrate the advancement of women.
Uzcategui is a PhD student in the Materials Science and Engineering Program and will be graduating in May 2021. She described the program as a “perfect fit” for her because the faculty expertise and access to facilities where she can work on medical devices was the “perfect combination of resources.”
In her research, Uzcategui focuses on creating structures that mimic body tissues using biomaterials and 3D printing processes. She built a high-resolution digital light projection 3D printer that fabricates scaffolds, which can then be filled with stem cells for tissue engineering and regeneration. This helps the process of “recapitulating the mechanical environment critical to restoring joint tissues after injury,” she said.
Uzcategui plans to start a company that focuses on putting people first and addressing global health issues with biomaterials research. She has gathered a team of talented individuals to start the company Vitro3D.
“This technology has the potential to aid in the development of medical implants, diagnostic devices and therapeutics,” she said.
In addition to her research, Uzcategui is part of many CU outreach groups. She is a CU SMART (Students for Multicultural Access to Research Training) mentor and holds leadership roles in CU WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) and CU Café Seminars. Uzcategui is also involved in LatinoLabs, a bilingual podcast that focuses on science communication and the humanity of doing science.
“I am involved with these activities because I am deeply invested in furthering the career of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM,” she said.
Uzcategui also has a strong voice in the social media realm.
“I use social media platforms for science communication in order to make science more accessible to women of all ages,” she said. “By disrupting the idea of what a scientist looks like and where science is shared, my work uplifts women and allows them to feel represented in science.”
Advisor Stephanie Bryant said Uzcategui is pushing the boundaries for 3D printing technology and also for women in engineering.
“Her research has both depth and breadth,” Bryant said. “In fact, she is applying her research in 3D printing to develop 3D scaffolds that one day could be used to help children who have injured their growth plate. She is an outstanding role model for the next generation of women in engineering and, in fact, someone who inspires me.”
Uzcategui applied for the PEO Scholar Award after learning about the PEO’s mission to advance women’s interests. She was nominated to apply by her advisor, Bob McLeod.
“Camila is richly deserving of this recognition,” McLeod said. “She is a natural leader, an insightful researcher and a passionate mentor. I believe she is exactly the rising star that the PEO scholarship is designed to recognize.”
The PEO Scholar Award will help Uzcategui to pursue additional training during her time as a PhD student. She plans to attend international conferences where she can present her PhD work and gain exposure to further “initiate collaborations across disciplines, campuses, sectors and nations.”
“I came to the U.S. from Venezuela with my mom when I was 8,” Uzcategui said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have her because I know that without her, I wouldn’t be in this position. I want to dedicate this award to her because she taught me to be resourceful, ingenious, courageous and authentically myself in everything I do.”