As a child, Melanie Coathup enjoyed solving puzzles and had a deep fascination with science. Now an internationally recognized biomedical engineer, Coathup has been inducted to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows — one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer.
As head of the Biionix Cluster at UCF and professor of medicine, Coathup’s work focuses on orthopedic innovation — developing new technologies and therapeutics to rebuild and repair bone tissues lost due to aging, cancer therapy, degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, or exposure to environments like space orbit.
“Being recognized by AIMBE for my research is so phenomenal, it’s difficult to fully capture with words. I am ecstatic, excited and inspired for the future,” she says. “Carrying out research is a humbling experience, as there are always ups and downs and often with more challenges than successes. It’s been an immense pleasure to work with my amazing post-docs and students over the years to create this body of research.”
Coathup was elected by her peers and members of the College of Fellows “for pioneering research in developing biomaterials for orthopedics and providing International leadership in translational medicine.” She was honored at a formal induction ceremony in Arlington, VA on March 27 — one of 140 inductees to the College of Fellows Class of 2023.
AIMBE Fellows represent the top two percent of medical and biological engineers who have made outstanding contributions to engineering and medicine through research, practice, or education. Three are Nobel Prize laureates, and 11 have received the Presidential Medal of Science and/or Technology and Innovation.
Associate Dean and Director of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Griff Parks congratulated Coathup on her induction.
“This award highlights both the outstanding research that is ongoing in her lab, as well as her long term commitment to training the next generation of biomedical scientists in areas of high impact to human health, ” he says.
Coathup’s research has led to new implant designs to replace bone lost to cancer, and the development of a new kind of synthetic bone material to help patients with skeletal injuries regenerate their tissue for a speedier recovery.
“I have always had a deep fascination with medical science,” she says. “One of my earliest memories as a child was reading books on science along with a (failed) attempt to read and learn the entire medical dictionary.”
Through the Biionix Cluster, Coathup leads a multidisciplinary team of researchers working to develop innovative materials, processes and interfaces for advanced medical implants, tissue regeneration, prostheses and other future high-tech products.
Before joining UCF, Coathup was a professor and researcher at University College London’s Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, serving as head of the Centre for Cell and Tissue Research. Born in the U.K., Dr. Coathup completed undergraduate studies in medical cell biology at the University of Liverpool, U.K. before furthering her knowledge with a Ph.D. in orthopedic implant fixation. A first-generation graduate, she is passionate about encouraging and inspiring future generations of scientists, particularly young women and was previously honored by UCF in March 2019 for Women’s History Month.
“Three weeks ago, I learned that a 6-year-old girl in Wales named Lilly who was researching me for a class project wouldn’t believe that I was a doctor working in STEM,” Coathup says. “This was because ’she is a girl.’ She told her teacher that she had made a mistake and that I couldn’t be a doctor. To Lilly, and all young girls, I want you to know that you can do it. Allow yourself to dream, and follow your beliefs, passion, and heart, and with hard work, you can achieve all. I look forward to celebrating your future successes.”