UAA’s Innovate awards, year three

January 8, 2014
2014 Innovate Award recipients

Chancellor Tom Case and Provost Bear Baker stand with individuals and teams winning research dollars offered by the Vice Provost of Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Helena Wisniewski.

Recipients of UAA’s 2014 Innovate grant awards were named at a special evening reception on Monday, Dec. 16 in the Gorsuch Commons.

Innovate dollars are provided by the Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies as seed funding to launch research and creative projects among UAA faculty that might lead to patents and/or publication in prestigious journals.

The event was festive, with warm and cold appetizers and a giant chocolate cake set up across the back of the room, and a screen and podium in the front. Off to the side, a table held certificates and two wall plaques.

Recipients and their families were invited to mingle over appetizers or settle at cloth-covered tables around the room, its walls filled with Alaska artwork by Fred Machetanz, as well as temporary displays of artwork provided by Jill Flanders Crosby and Brian Jeffery that showcased their 2013 Innovate award for “Secrets Under the Skin.”

Visiting dignitaries

Dr. Helena Wisniewski, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, welcomed guests, including Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Representative Andrew Josephson, the Honorable Arliss Sturgulewski and University of Alaska Regent Kirk Wickersham. She invited Treadwell to address the group. He was upbeat and enthusiastic about the evening’s event.

“I chair the Statewide Committee on Research as your lieutenant governor. My goals and the goals of the committee are that every Alaskan realize that yes, we do have great resources beneath our feet but also between our ears. This award ceremony makes that well known tonight.”

Treadwell said he believed in a porous university, with knowledge moving in and out freely. “You can build an economy with knowledge,” Treadwell said, “But it is up to us as Alaskans to make it work.”

Update from 2013 winners

Before introducing three past winners to give updates on their projects, Wisniewski  reminded her audience of the ROI, the return on investment, that the Innovate program has managed. The 2013 awards totaled $200,000, she said, and to date, faculty have applied for $2.5 million in research dollars.

“We may not get all of that,” she said, “but if we get half, the return on investment is pretty good!”

Eric Murphy and Colin McGill gave a summary of their blueberry research on aged rats; Joey Yang described his snowless sidewalk; and Jonathan Stecyk discussed turtle hearts and how they might help doctors treat oxygen-deprived human hearts in the future.

And then, (drum roll) this year’s winners were announced.

2014 Innovate Award winners

  • Dr. Nathaniel Hicks, Physics & Astronomy, “PCAGE: A New Plasma Confinement Technique”
  • Dr. Aaron Dotson, Civil Engineering, and Dr. Eric Dickenson, Southern Nevada Water Authority, “Coupling UV Advanced Oxidation and Ceramic Membranes to Treat Challenging Waters”
  • Dr. Jonathan Stecyk, Biological Sciences, and Dr. Khrystyne Duddleston, Biological Sciences, “Influence of Temperature and Prolonged Oxygen Deprivation on the Composition and Diversity of the Turtle Gut Microbiota in Normal Physiology and Disease”
  • Dr. Erin Hicks, Physics  & Astronomy, “A Step Toward Understanding the Role of Supermassive Black Holes in Galaxy Formation and Evolution”
  • Dr. Ganhua Lu, Mechanical Engineering, “Vertical Graphene-Nanoparticle Hybrids for High-Performance Supercapacitors”
  • Dr. Joshua Swift, Psychology, “Client and Therapist Moment-to-Moment Ratings of Significant Events in Psychology”
  • Dr. Sarah Gerken, Biological Sciences, “Diastylidae of New Zealand”
  • Dr. Lee Ann Munk, Geological Sceinces, and Dr. Berry Lyons, Ohio State University, “Assessing the Effects of Silicate Weathering on Atmospheric CO2 in the Aleutian Volcanic Arc”
  • Dr. John Kennish, Chemistry, “Determination of the rose fragrance, salidroside, rosavin and rosarin in the Arctic root Rhodiola rosea”
  • Dr. Kirk Scott, Computer Science & Engineering, “Android Apps for Computer Science Learning in Schools”
  • Dr. Jocelyn McGee, Dr. Rebecca Robinson and Dr. Gloria Eldridge, Psychology, and Dr. Thomas Nighswander, Alaska Native Medical Center, and Dr. Donald Thomas, “Malawi Resilience Project”
  • Dr. Ghulam Bham, Civil Engineering, and Co-PI Dr. Kenrick Mock, Computer Science and Engineering,”Development of a Fixed-Base Driving Simulator at UAA”

Two patent plaques were also presented at the event:

Data Hiding Based Messages and Advertisements

  • Dr. Helena S. Wisniewski, Vice Provost of Research and Graduate Studies, Co-Inventor, U.S. Patent 8,555,052 B2 with colleagues from Stevens Institute of Technology

Process for Demineralization of Bone Matrix and Preservation of Natural Grown Factors

  • Dr. N. Jane Shelby, Director of WWAMI School of Medical Education, First Inventor, U.S. Patent 8,574,825 with colleagues from Montana State University and Murray, Utah
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