What do a Connecticut assistant attorney general, a local traffic reporter/talk show host, a brewery owner, and the president and CEO of a biotechnology startup have in common?
They’re among the nine young UConn alums named to Connecticut Magazine’s 2015 “40 Under 40” list, which honors the state’s “best and brightest among Generation Next.”
The diverse roster includes artists, community leaders, entertainers, farmers, philanthropists, and more. Four of the nine individuals named are alumnae of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The named UConn alumni demonstrate “the caliber, depth, and breadth of what our alumni are doing out there,” says Montique Cotton Kelly, executive director of the UConn Alumni Association. “To have such representation across majors and disciplines is what UConn is all about. We couldn’t be more excited to see their names on this list.”
Nicole Wagner ’07 (CLAS), ’13 Ph.D., 30, West Hartford
On one end of the spectrum is Nicole Wagner ’07 (CLAS), ’13 Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow who completed both her undergraduate degree and Ph.D. at UConn. Wagner is the president and CEO of LambdaVision, a biotechnology company founded through the UConn Ventures fund that is developing a protein-based retinal implant to cure certain types of blindness.
While earning her B.S. in molecular and cell biology, Wagner worked in the lab of Professor of Chemistry Robert Birge, with whom she founded the company in 2009. When she first joined Birge’s lab, Wagner says, she planned to become a medical doctor.
“When I got involved in the lab, my passions changed,” she says. “I started really enjoying the research part of things. The retinal implant project was a great opportunity to blend my interests in medicine, vision, and research.”
The founding of the company, which is part of UConn’s Technology Incubation Program, has not only allowed Wagner to pursue her passions, but also given her an opportunity to be a leader and learn more about the business end, she says.
With the completion of a recent “proof-of-concept” experiment and two new grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, Wagner and her team are advancing toward their goal of restoring vision to patients.
As for the “40 Under 40” nod, it’s icing on the cake.
“It’s certainly very exciting, definitely a big surprise to me,” Wagner says. “I’m honored to be on the list. It’s a good feeling for sure.”
Other UConn CLAS alumni who made the list include:
Teresa (LaBarbera) Dufour ’01 (CLAS), 34, New Haven
Traffic reporter, “Good Morning Connecticut”/ host, “Connecticut Style”
Why she’s on the list: The vibrant Dufour is a daily double threat: After providing thousands of commuters across Southeastern Connecticut with the latest traffic updates on “Good Morning Connecticut” from 5 to 7 a.m., she switches gears and is back on the air at 12:30 p.m. with “Connecticut Style,” where she shares the better parts of Connecticut life, including fashion, health, beauty, and food.
Julie Daly Meehan ’05 (HDFS), 31, Hartford
HYPE executive director/director of investor engagement and digital media
Why she’s on the list: Meehan works for the MetroHartford Alliance, which is the leading business and economic development organization in Connecticut’s capital region. Meehan is also executive director of the Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs group. In 2014 Meehan was promoted, via the addition of a second role, and is now responsible for developing social media strategies to strengthen all the MetroHartford Alliance initiatives, including the Connecticut Health Council and the Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services Cluster.
Kate Lindsay ’05 (CLAS), ’08 JD, 36, Hartford
Why she’s on the list: In addition to her caseload as an attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani, Lindsay has taken on pro bono work and worked with survivors of domestic violence. The lifelong state resident and UConn grad has also been a part of clinics to provide legal services to the homeless of Hartford, as well as efforts for fair housing and immigration.