UCI Innovator Awards

2020 Winners

The Emerging Innovation/Early Career Innovator of the Year award

Yoojin Won, Ph.D., associate professor from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Won’s research is producing porous materials which address, among other things, smartphone overheating as well as novel manufacturing methods which minimize the use of toxic chemicals without generating hazard wastes.

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The Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year award

Sunil Gandhi, Ph.D., associate professor from the School of Biological Sciences

Gandhi has pioneered technology to visualize complex tissues like the brain. His company Translucence has partnered with Zeiss Microscopy to distribute the technology. More recently, he has co-founded a new company based on cell therapy to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

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The Innovator of the Year award

Weian Zhao, Ph.D., associate professor from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Zhao has developed some of UCI’s most innovative technologies to improve the quality of life of patients struggling with cancer and infectious diseases. Velox, Arvetas Biosciences, Amberstone and Balyx are four of the companies he has started.

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The COVID-19 Response Award

Phil Felgner, Ph.D., professor from the School of Medicine

Felgner has pioneered a high throughput cloning and protein microarray chip fabrication approach that is useful for profiling immunoreactivity on a large scale.

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2019 Winners

The Emerging Innovation/Early Career Innovator of the Year award

Mo Li, associate professor from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Li’s research focuses on unconventional infrastructure materials and their interfaces with structural engineering, damage sensing and advanced manufacturing, with the goal of improving infrastructure service life, safety and resilience.

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The Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year award

Elliot Botvinick, professor from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, the School of Medicine and the Beckman Laser Institute

Botvinick is a leader in advancing medical device development and bringing his research to commercialization. His lab focuses on the relationship between mechanical stresses on cells and molecular signaling.

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The Innovator of the Year award

Christopher C.W. Hughes, professor from the School of Biological Sciences and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering

Hughes’ research includes blood vessel development, angiogenesis in cancer and bioengineering of blood vessels and tissues. Additionally, his research helps develop true precision medicine and lower drug development costs by improving the accuracy of drug discovery and validation.

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2018 Winners

Emerging Innovation / Early Career Innovator of the Year award

Alon Gorodetsky, Ph.D., associate professor, from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering

Gorodetsky’s research is at the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology and materials science, using a multidisciplinary approach to design, synthesize and characterize biologically-inspired materials for applications in unconventional electronic devices.

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Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year award

Gregory Weiss, Ph.D., professor chemical biology from the School of Physical Sciences

Weiss’ research area includes the atoms, bonds and molecules that make life possible. He invents tools to dissect how bio-molecules work and develops technologies to control, improve and fix them.

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Innovator of the Year award

Michael Franz, DSc chancellor’s professor from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences

Franz’s research area includes software optimization, virtual machines, language-based computer security and software infrastructure. He collaborated with the Mozilla foundation to transition the JavaScript compilation technology invented in his lab into the Firefox browser.

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Lifetime Achievement award

Kyriacos Athanasiou, Ph.D., professor from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering

Athanasiou has spent his career inventing bio-mimetic tissue for treating damaged knees, jaws, hips, shoulders and other joints. Along the way, he became an authority on translating engineering innovations into commercially available medical instruments and devices.

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