By Katie Boncella, PhD Bioengineering Candidate
Dr. Arjun Fontaine is a Colorado native who, after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in mechanical engineering, was compelled to continue in biological sciences. While he considered medical school, he decided research would allow him to be exposed to the medical sciences he desired without abandoning his prior training. Our department of Bioengineering was particularly intriguing since we are located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, and Dr. Fontaine believed it was “a perfect melding of these two worlds – the quantitative engineering with the medical realm.”
With his interest in working at the intersection of biology and engineering, he began down the road of prosthesis-related research at the Biomechatronic Development Laboratory, under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Weir. At the beginning of his PhD, he worked on the biological/neural interface facet of prosthesis, which led him into neurobiology, optogenetics, and biomedical optics. As a post-doctoral fellow, his research has focused on “the prospect that intervention within nerves of the viscera may offer unique therapeutic approaches.” He believes that “being better able to understand and interface with the peripheral nervous system will increasingly show clinical benefit in the years to come.”
Dr. Fontaine currently has his sights set on expanding in this area of work as a research faculty and has “some exciting domains on the horizon in which we’ll be investigating autonomic nerve pathways as treatment targets for inflammation and PTSD.” During his time at CU, he became involved in many exciting interdisciplinary projects in different labs across campus. Our program and the labs associated allow the opportunity for a broad range of research with diverse scientists and clinicians. He stated that these various resources make for an exciting environment to pursue research.
His favorite part of graduating from the department was “the triumph of coming through the frustration and sometimes seemingly bleak phases of the research endeavor and graduating!” Recently, Dr. Fontaine was awarded his first R21 entitled “A 3D-Printed Nerve Cuff for 1-Photon Optogenetic Vagal Stimulation” with Co-PI Dr. Weir. Additionally, their VA SPiRE grant just received a notice of intent to award! With Dr. Fontaine graduating from our first cohort of PhD students, becoming our first post-doctoral fellow from our program, and receiving his first grant, we would not be more excited!