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