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Lemelson-MIT $30,000 Illinois Student Prize Finalist

February 20, 2012

The University of Illinois has always been an incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship. Students and faculty alike have invented products, created new processes and started successful companies that have changed the world. Today is no exception.

Announced today are the five finalists for the Lemelson-MIT $30,000 Illinois Student Prize for innovation. Finalists were chosen by a distinguished panel of entrepreneurs as well as faculty members and professionals from across Illinois campus.  The winner of the prize will be announced and awarded the prize at a ceremony scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on March 7, 2012 in the auditorium of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA; 1205 W. Clark, Urbana), on the University of Illinois campus. The awards ceremony is open to the public, and will be immediately followed by a reception for all attendees.

The Lemelson-MIT $30,000 Illinois Student Prize is funded through a partnership with the Lemelson-MIT Program, which has awarded the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize to outstanding student inventors at MIT since 1995. Administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, the prize is awarded to a student who has demonstrated remarkable inventiveness and innovation.

Finalists for the 2012 Lemelson-MIT $30,000 Illinois Student Prize include:

Sriram Chandrasekaran  PhD Candidate – BioPhysics/School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sriram has created versatile computational tools that can rapidly search for drug targets for diseases like tuberculosis. His new technology called PROM predicts how changes in gene activity affect the thousands of bio-chemical transformations that are happening inside our body or inside bacteria. This allows scientists to computationally add or delete genes from the DNA of cells and predict their outcomes. By finding genes that need to be ‘deleted’ in a pathogenic bacterium in order to kill it, candidate drug targets are identified for microbial infections like tuberculosis with great accuracy. Similarly, one can infer genes that need to be added or modified to increase biofuel production using PROM. This can also serve as a designing tool for genetically engineering bacteria.

Muhammed Fazeel Senior – Integrative Biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

While researching cardiac disease and diagnostics, Muhammed learned how sensitive the outcome of a cardiac emergency is to time. While medical prowess in the cardiac field is impressive enough that doctors today can tackle and treat almost any heart disease, cardiac events are the number one killer of men and women worldwide not because of a void in the medical field, but because of the delay in treatment. In order to solve this issue, Muhammed is working on an innovation called “In Case of Emergency” or I.C.E. This is a device that can call emergency services in case of major cardiac events that is affordable and non-invasive. He is also working another project called Tabule, an instructor-student communication tool that is simple, efficient and is ready to use on any smartphone or laptop. Tabule is currently in its beta-testing phase.

Kevin Karsch PhD Candidate – Computer Science, College of Engineering

Inserting digital content into pictures or videos is indispensable in films, advertising, and nearly every other form of media. Currently, adding digital actors or props to media is a painstaking process that requires artistry, expertise, and physical measurements of the scene (lighting, geometry, camera parameters, etc). Kevin has led the development of a new technique for inserting objects and special effects into photographs and videos that requires no scene measurements, and can be performed by novice users in only a few minutes. This tool will greatly reduce the time and cost in creating visual effects for movies and product advertisements and bring exciting new applications for home redecoration and augmented reality.

James Langer PhD Candidate – Materials Science & Engineering, College of Engineering

According to the EPA, as many as 17 million people in the US may currently be exposed to dangerously high levels of a toxic rocket fuel component through public drinking water supplies. This contaminant, perchlorate, disturbs proper function of the thyroid and has a disproportionately adverse effect on prenatal and neonatal development. James developed a new class of ion-exchange fiber composite (IXFC) materials exhibiting the potential for efficient, high capacity removal of perchlorate from drinking water in a low-cost, high-flow configuration such as a pitcher or faucet style filter. James is President and CEO of Serionix, which develops high performance technologies for water and air purification. Serionix is differentiated by rapid filtration rates, well-defined selectivity for targeted chemicals, and potential for low-cost production. James is the recipient of two Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants aimed at developing new technologies for both residential water treatment and chemical warfare protection at the facility scale.

Pradeep S. Shenoy PhD Candidate – Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering

To meet the world’s growing energy demand, two actions must be taken simultaneously. Energy consumption needs to reduce, and sustainable energy sources need to become reliable, safe, and cost competitive. An important enabling technology in energy systems is power electronics, which convert and control electricity. Pradeep’s work on differential power processing has led to techniques that demonstrate system level improvements specifically in microprocessor power delivery and solar PV energy conversion.  SolarBridge Technologies (a university startup that makes solar power converters) decided to license his idea and applied for an ARPA-E grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. In November, they were awarded $1.75 million to commercialize the technology.

About the Lemelson-MIT Program

Celebrating innovation, inspiring youth

The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding innovators and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering. The Foundation sparks, sustains and celebrates innovation and the inventive spirit. It supports projects in the U.S. and developing countries that nurture innovators and unleash invention to advance economic, social and environmentally sustainable development. To date The Lemelson Foundation has donated or committed more than U.S. $150 million in support of its mission.

February 20, 2012
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