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Nicole Black - Academic Choice and Rigor

Nicole Black

From your experience, what is the value of a UCS education?

The value of a UCS education is having diverse opportunities to discover your passions and interests. While at UCS, I was very fortunate to attend the Utica Center for Math, Science, and Technology (UCMST).

At UCMST, I met many bright and ambitious students from across the four UCS high schools who all continue to inspire me. The teachers and staff in UCMST did a fantastic job of incorporating potential career fields into our coursework and bringing in past UCS students to talk about their experiences at universities across the country, which ultimately inspired me to apply for and to attend Boston University as a Trustee Scholar following my high school graduation in 2010.

The internship program in UCMST and the ThunderChickens FIRST robotics team were incredibly influential in my decision to pursue Biomedical Engineering and a career in biomedical innovation. I was also involved in other activities at Henry Ford II High School, including the National Honor Society, the Varsity Tennis team, and the Varsity Swimming team, which helped me to develop leadership skills and persistence.

How has your UCS education helped you get to where you are?

My UCS education helped me to build broad foundational knowledge in many topics that led to success in the highly interdisciplinary field of Biomedical Engineering.

My teachers at UCMST and at Henry Ford II High School, especially my fantastic Honors English 11 teacher, Mark Julien, and my AP English Literature teacher, Vivian Szmigiel, always encouraged me to have confidence in my own voice and in my written words.

Developing a breadth of strengths, from STEM fields to English, has enabled me to not only develop innovative work during my career, but it has also helped me to better communicate my work to broad audiences. My teachers in UCS always made me feel like nothing was impossible and that we could all accomplish whatever we set out to do after high school.

Current Status

I am currently the Vice President of Biomaterials and Innovation for Desktop Health, a healthcare division of Desktop Metal.

In 2021, I led the acquisition of a startup company, Beacon Bio, to Desktop Metal, and I am continuing to lead our team in bringing novel biomimetic implantable devices to patients. Currently, our team is developing the PhonoGraft™ device, a novel implant for chronic eardrum perforation repair that mimics the structure of the native eardrum.

This work branched research that I conducted during my PhD in Bioengineering at Harvard University (which I completed in 2020) and was supported by grants from multiple sources, including from Mass Eye and Ear hospital and from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
The PhonoGraft device was inspired by the dozens of patients that suffered from chronic eardrum perforations following the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013.

One of our surgeon collaborators, Dr. Aaron Remenschneider, helped to treat patients and to track their outcomes following  this event, and he noticed that hearing and healing outcomes of patients whose eardrums were repaired with conventional graft materials were not ideal. We hope that the PhonoGraft device, through its novel material and 3D printed architecture, manufactured on the EnvisionTEC 3D-Bioplotter™, will improve outcomes for patients that damage their eardrums through blast injuries, traumatic injuries, chronic ear infections, and more.

Our team in Desktop Health is also exploring other use cases for 3D printing in medical devices, focusing on applications where biodegradable materials and custom architectures can add functional value during tissue reconstruction in the body.


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The Value of a UCS Education

Throughout this school year, Utica Community Schools will be asking the question - "What is the Value of a UCS education?"

The answer will come from those most impacted by our schools - graduates, students, parents, residents, business owners and community leaders. 

Learn more at the stories shared on this page. 

Join the conversation at #ucsvalue or share your story at [email protected]

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