LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 15, 2010) – The University of Kentucky announced the establishment of a $1.15 million fellowship program in engineering and medicine, the Halcomb Fellows program, made possible through a donation from alumni Dr. Joe and Joan Halcomb and matching funds by the UK Research Challenge Trust Fund.
“There is hope for changing the Commonwealth of Kentucky through education, through healthcare, through the arts and through the things we’re doing today,” said Dr. Lee Todd, president of the University of Kentucky.
The Halcombs, of Camarillo, California, graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1974 with bachelor degrees in mechanical engineering and nursing, respectively. Dr. Halcomb also earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Kentucky in 1979.
The program provides the opportunity for graduate students in the University of Kentucky Colleges of Engineering and Medicine to engage in premier interdisciplinary research in the field of biomedical engineering, which has emerged internationally as an established discipline that integrates engineering with principles in the medical and health sciences.
“This is coming at a critical time for the College of Engineering and the College of Medicine,” said Dr. Eric Grulke, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the College of Engineering. “This is really a ‘lighthouse’ gift, in that it’s going to shine a light on some things that are new and that we think are very important,” he said.
The goal of the Halcomb Fellows in Medicine and Engineering program is to challenge UK students and enable them to learn “hands-on” skills, offer students prestigious research opportunities, encourage collaboration between disciplines, and foster a wide range of high level, goal-oriented interdisciplinary research. The first Halcomb Fellow will be announced this spring for their two-year appointment.
“UK was so much a part of growing up for me. It’s just so good to give something back,” Halcomb said as part of prepared remarks at a brief announcement ceremony Thursday afternoon. “Our gift today is just a small step to help others pursue their dreams and make giant leaps forward with research,” he said.
Of the initial gift from the Halcombs of $500,000, $400,000 has been matched by the UK Research Challenge Trust Fund. An additional $250,000 will be contributed over 10 years for a total of $1.15 million.
“A real strength for UK is that we have the engineering and medical campuses right next each other,” said Dr. Doug Kalika, chair of the department of chemical and materials engineering.
The gift reflects a trend of collaboration between engineers and physicians that has already been occurring at UK. Already College of Engineering faculty like Dr. Kim Anderson, Dr. Zack Hilt and Dr. Thomas Dziubla have collaborated with medical colleagues on projects diverse as new biomaterials for cancer treatment, new interfaces for drug delivery, bone and joint therapy technology and new ways to treat neurological disorders.
“We also have the relationship from proximity,” Kalika said, referring to the College of Engineering’s position so close to the College of Medicine on UK’s campus.
“The physicians work on such tight schedules already. Proximity makes things so much easier for faculty in dentistry, medicine or pharmacy,” said Dr. David Puleo, director of UK’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, which seeks to encourage of the kind of interdisciplinary research Halcomb Fellows will be engaged in.
“That proximity is a huge part of us being able to work that interface between the two disciplines. We don’t have that silo mentality that keeps each discipline separate,” Puleo said.
The ideal Halcomb Fellows will be “students who want to make possible tomorrow what we think impossible today,” Halcomb said.
“Joanie and I hope that this gift can help others see blue,” he said.