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Dear faculty,

Every day, world-class UW researchers are driven to spark innovation and imagination in laboratories and classrooms across our campuses as they work to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Today, we are pleased to recognize 14 of your peers with the 2015 Innovation Awards for their outstanding contributions in two categories — research and education — and their revolutionary work in creating solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems.

The Innovation Research Award supports unusually creative early and mid-career faculty in engineering, health, natural and social sciences. Over the next two years, $1.3 million will be distributed among five individuals or teams to fund their respective research projects:

  • A team of six investigators — Shwetak Patel and James Fogarty (Computer Science and Engineering); Julie Kientz and Sean Munson (Human-Centered Design and Engineering); Jasmine Zia (UW Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology); and Roger Vilardaga (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences) — have been working to build tools used on a mobile device that allow patients to easily enter data about habits and behaviors related to a particular health problem. These data will help extend the reach of health care beyond the clinic, making it easier for physicians to make diagnoses and treatment plans.
Photo of Shwetak Patel Photo of James Fogarty Photo of Roger Vilardaga
Shwetak Patel James Fogarty Roger Vilardaga
Photo of Sean Munson Photo of Julie Kientz Photo of Jasmine Zia
Sean Munson Julie Kientz Jasmine Zia
  • Houra Merrikh (Microbiology) has evidence that bacterial genes oriented to create head-on collisions between the DNA replication machinery and RNA polymerase evolve faster, which can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. If Dr. Merrikh’s hypothesis is correct, then the enzyme that repairs the damage caused by the head-on collisions may lead to a new drug target.
  • Jay Parrish (Biology) is looking to deepen research on ion channel mutations, many of which are associated with major psychiatric disorders including autism, bipolar disorder and epilepsy. A major hurdle is to understand how the mutation of a given ion channel leads to disease. Dr. Parrish will use RNA-sequencing data and bioinformatics to uncover new solutions.
  • Larry Zweifel (Pharmacology) seeks to achieve a major methodological breakthrough by using mutagenesis and viral expression methods to identify neurons that are connected to each other in a functional circuit. He proposes site-directed mutagenesis of genes in the prefrontal cortex associated with schizophrenia.
  • Mark Long (Evans School of Public Affairs) knows virtually all public policies carry with them both costs and benefits, and regulatory analyses estimate whether the benefits outweigh their costs. Dr. Long will evaluate how individuals value the lives of others and uncover how altruism plays a role in the social value, which may lead to major changes in social policies.
Photo of Houra Merrikh Photo of Jay Parrish Photo of Larry Zweifel Photo of Mark Long
Houra Merrikh Jay Parrish Larry Zweifel Mark Long

The Innovation Education Award fosters new levels of student engagement and understanding, especially through active learning. Over the next two years, $200,000 will be distributed to one collaborative team to fund their project:

  • Four professors — Payman Arabshahi (Applied Physics Lab and Electrical Engineering); Gina Neff (Department of Communication); Vipin Kumar (Mechanical Engineering); and Vikram Jandhyala (Electrical Engineering) — are creating a cross-disciplinary, web-based program that will provide mentoring and a support network for innovation readiness. The goal is to help students acquire entrepreneurial thinking skills and increase their problem-solving skills — regardless of their major — or of the ultimate success of any particular idea.
Photo of Payman Arabshahi Photo of Gina Neff Photo of Vipin Kumar Photo of Vikram Jandhyala
Payman Arabshahi Gina Neff Vipin Kumar Vikram Jandhyala

These are some of the most creative thinkers in our midst and are at the heart of the UW’s innovation ecosystem. Their work, their curiosity and their undaunted spirits truly transform our world. We congratulate them for fueling the innovative research and education that is working toward a world of good.

Provost Cauce's signature

Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology and American Ethnic Studies
Provost and Executive Vice President

About the Innovation Awards

The UW’s Innovation Awards recognize exceptional innovators among the UW’s early and mid-career researchers engaged in the medical, natural, social and engineering sciences, as well as researchers fostering new levels of student engagement through active learning. Part of the UW’s Innovation Agenda, the awards encourage talented individuals to pursue projects and outcomes that may not yet qualify for external funding but that have exceptional promise for the future and for the engagement of our students in the innovation and creation space. Learn more.