UVM prof gains national award for research

Dr. James Iatridis, a UVM professor, was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PCASE) for his work in spinal biomechanics.The PCASE award was created by President Clinton in 1996 to celebrate developments by young scientists and engineers. The award is the highest honor presented to young innovators in the fields of science and technology.”Eighty percent of the population has episodes of back pain at some point in their life,” Iatridis said. “[Back pain is the] second most frequent reason for doctor visits and third most frequent reason for surgery. Direct and indirect costs of back pain are [between] 20 and 100 billion dollars.Iatridis flew down to Washington, D.C. to receive the award. In addition to the award itself, he received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH).Iatridis’ work focuses on the extremely specialized area of intervertebral disc degeneration, or the erosion of the vertebral discs, which are pieces of cartilage separating each vertebrae in the spine.”My work [looks] at ways [to] prevent and repair intervertebral disc degeneration,” Iatridis said. “My work [involves] defining healthy and damaging loads to promote the prevention of degeneration [in addition to] minimally invasive interventions for early repair.”Iatridis was notified he would receive the award on Dec. 3, 2008. He received the letter in the early afternoon and promptly contacted family, friends and coworkers and preparing statements for the NIH. “I was delighted,” Iatridis said. “I felt great … really proud and humbled.”