Third Annual UCI Innovator Awards Recognize UCI Innovators

Past Tides
November 4, 2020 By Ethan Perez

UCI Beall Applied Innovation recently recognized nominees and awardees, virtually, at the third annual UC Irvine Innovator Awards.

The UCI Innovator Awards – established with support from the Beall Family Foundation – recognize UCI researchers and faculty who are working actively to promote commercialization of university innovations and intellectual property. Nominees received special plaques while winners received a trophy and a cash award of $5,000 to $10,000, depending on award. All were presented with certificates of recognition from local and state officials.

After an opening from UCI Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of UCI Beall Applied Innovation Richard Sudek, special guest UCI Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor and Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Statistics Hal Stern took the virtual podium.

“To all of the nominees: today, we celebrate your innovations,” said Stern. “We commend the way that you continue to pursue your scholarship, your research and your lives in the challenging time caused by the pandemic, and we thank you for your contributions to the innovation ecosystem.”

Afterward, Sudek and Stern announced the nominees and winners of the award categories.

The Emerging Innovation/Early Career Innovator of the Year award recognizes an individual who has displayed excellence in the early stages of their career or in the very beginning stages of a breakthrough that would be considered innovative. Nominees included Mihaela Balu from the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, Kevin Beier from the School of Medicine, Asaf Ferber from the School of Physical Sciences, and Yoonjin Won from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Won received the award. Her research uses data-driven physics, extreme computing and materials design to bring efficiency enhancements to energy, water, manufacturing processes and electronics cooling.

The Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year award recognizes an innovator who has shown an enterprising spirit by transforming at least one significant innovation from the university into a market-ready product or service. Nominees included Philip Felgner from the School of Medicine, Sunil Gandhi from the School of Biological Sciences, and Mari Kimura from Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Gandhi received the award. He has pioneered a technology to visualize complex tissues, like the brain.

The Innovator of the Year award recognizes a researcher at UCI who has demonstrated excellence by developing a breakthrough technology, idea or process and has demonstrated its large potential to create economic value and improve lives. Nominees included Ahmed Eltawil from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, Lisa Flanagan from the School of Medicine, Aditi Majumder from the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, James N. Smith from the School of Physical Sciences, Craig Stark from the School of Biological Sciences, and Weian Zhao from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Zhao received the award. His research focuses on developing technologies for rapid diagnosis, stem cell therapy and drug discovery.

The COVID-19 Response Award, newly created for the 2020 Innovator Awards, was established to recognize an innovator who has demonstrated an innovative and entrepreneurial drive in response to the global pandemic. The award went to Phil Felgner, who has been at the forefront of COVID-19 diagnostics. His microarray technologies allow for sensitive testing of proteins and antibodies to detect and monitor the course of infection.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I know how isolating it can feel sometimes as you work away, long and hard, to bring your innovation to life,” said Sudek. “I hope all of you will take advantage of the support and programs available through UCI Beall Applied Innovation to help you bring your ideas into the marketplace.”

Learn more about the UCI Innovator Awards.

Main Image: Julie Kennedy

Produced by UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Directed by Julie Kennedy
Edited by Celina Bhandari, Julie Kennedy & Daniel Xu
Photography and animations by Celina Bhandari & Julie Kennedy
Zoom background artwork by Elisa Le & Ryan Mahar
Recording by Josh Kaiser

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