UW Today

February 11, 2015

14 UW researchers win 2015 Innovation Awards

News and Information

The University of Washington has chosen 14 researchers across campus to receive this year’s UW Innovation Awards.

The awards are given to encourage early and mid-career scientists to pursue projects that may not yet qualify for outside funding, but show future promise and will engage students in innovative, creative work.

“These are some of the most creative thinkers in our midst and are at the heart of the UW’s innovation ecosystem. We congratulate them for fueling the innovative research and education that is working toward a world of good,” said Provost Ana Mari Cauce.

Over the next two years, $1.3 million will be distributed among five individuals or teams in the Innovation Research Award category, which supports “unusually creative” faculty members in engineering, health and natural and social sciences, and their research projects.

The Innovation Education Award gives $200,000 to one collaborative team to foster new levels of student engagement and understanding, especially through active learning.

2015 Innovation Research Award winners and projects:awards mugs-1

A team of six researchers is building tools for use on a mobile device that let patients easily enter data about their 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. The research team includes James Fogarty, associate professor of computer science and engineering; Julie Kientz, associate professor of human centered design and engineering; Sean Munson, assistant professor of human centered design and engineering; Shwetak Patel, professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering; Roger Vilardaga, acting assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; and Jasmine Zia, a gastroenterology physician.

Houra Merrikh, assistant professor of microbiology, has found 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 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.

awards mugs-2

Jay Parrish, assistant professor of biology, wants to deepen research on ion channel mutations, many of which are associated with major psychiatric disorders including autism, bipolar disorder and epilepsy. He will use RNA-sequencing data and bioinformatics to uncover new solutions.

Larry Zweifel, assistant professor of pharmacology and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 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, professor of public affairs, knows that almost all public policies carry with them both costs and benefits, and regulatory analyses estimate whether the benefits outweigh their costs. 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 changes in social policies.

2015 Innovation Education Award winners and project:awards mugs-3

A team of four researchers is creating a cross-disciplinary, Web-based program that will provide mentoring and a support network to help students across departments gain entrepreneurial-thinking skills and increase their problem-solving skills. The research team includes Payman Arabshahi, associate professor of electrical engineering and research scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory; Gina Neff, associate professor of communication; Vipin Kumar, associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Vikram Jandhyala, vice provost for innovation at UW CoMotion and professor of electrical engineering.

Last year, three UW faculty members received awards in the program’s inaugural year. They were Brandi Cossairt, assistant professor of chemistry; James Carothers, assistant professor of chemical engineering; and Eric Klavins, associate professor of electrical engineering.