Meet the Invention Ambassadors

Meet the 2017-2018 AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors – leaders in their fields who are making an impact on global issues.

Members of this year’s class are driving advances in materials science, global health, medical devices, product strategy and innovation, environmental science, and entrepreneurship.



Luis Almodovar
Co-Founder of Ergosuture Corp., Director of Neuro-Oncology Service, HIMA San Pablo Hospital





Luis Almodóvar is a Co-Founder of Ergosuture Corp., a biomedical device company focused on the development of a novel, versatile platform technology with wide applications aimed at expediting and simplifying the suturing process.   He currently leads the company’s research and development efforts, constantly engaging in the  generation of new intellectual property as well as expanding the company’s technological reach through collaboration with major hospital institutions and successful entrepreneurs in the medical field.

Almodovar received his M.D. degree and neurosurgical training from the University of Puerto Rico.  He continued on to complete a Neurosurgical Oncology fellowship from the prestigious M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.  He’s currently the director of the Neuro-Oncology service at the HIMA San Pablo hospital and has been recently chosen to lead the Neurosurgical Oncology Division at the newly constructed University of Puerto Rico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.



Elaine Chen
Founder and Managing Director, ConceptSpring; Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management





Elaine Chen is a startup veteran and product strategy and innovation consultant who has brought numerous hardware and software products to market. As Founder and Managing Director of ConceptSpring, Elaine works with innovative teams to help them define and build new products and services with the speed and agility of a startup. Clients span diverse industries, including healthcare IT, industrial automation, robotics, consumer electronics, retail innovation, fintech and more. She is the author of the book, “Bringing a Hardware Product to Market: Navigating the Wild Ride from Concept to Mass Production”.

Elaine is also a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, where she teaches entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, primary market research, and organization development for new ventures. Elaine has previously served at the VP level in engineering and product management at several startups, including Rethink Robotics, Zeo, Zeemote and SensAble Technologies. She holds a BS and an MS in mechanical engineering from MIT.



Huda Elasaad and Diana Yousef
CTO and CEO, change:WaterLabs, Inc





Huda Elasaad and Diana Yousef are the CTO and Founder/CEO of change:WaterLabs, Inc.

Huda is the CTO of change:Water Labs, Inc.  Huda has extensive academic and applied background in the water field. She has professional experience internationally, including Mexico and the Middle East, and in various facets of the water industry, including municipal plant operations for wastewater treatment, desalination, and water process engineering. Her bachelor’s degree from McGill University focused primarily on the fields of geohydrology and aquatic chemistry. She joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT in 2012, after completing her graduate work at the University of Michigan, where she concentrated on industrial and environmental chemical contamination and control, by means of exposure modeling, sampling and analysis protocol development, and novel sampling hardware apparatus prototyping. She is a published author in the fields of environmental public health, water treatment design, maintenance optimization and field applications. Huda is cofounder of PV Pure and consults in the field of commercial aquaculture.

Diana is the Founder, CEO and principal inventor behind change:WATER Labs, Inc. and is a serial entrepreneur with 10+yrs experience in innovating and commercializing technology and novel business models in the cleantech and biotech sectors, pioneering many approaches to translate science and technology into social and environmental impact for the developing world. Her professional career spans the arenas of academic life sciences research, international economic development, strategy consulting, finance and venture capital/private equity investing. She co-founded the Life Sciences Investment Group of the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, investing in growth-stage biotech and agritech companies in India, China and other emerging markets. After spearheading the United Nation’s Inclusive Markets incubator, she consultant with McKinsey & Company, and worked with clients across several sectors (life sciences, consumer good, private equity, logistics) around go-to-market, pricing and growth strategies; business development and technology commercialization; operations; and post-merger integration. She was a seed-stage venture investor with Battelle Ventures and Kidd & Company, investing in and catalyzing companies around emerging technologies in cleantech, biotechnology, and IT.  As an entrepreneur, she spearheaded a number of cleantech and social ventures, including: WeCyclers (social venture to clean up urban slums and create recyclables supply chain linkages in Nigeria), Immerse Global (Stanford-spin out to develop atmospheric water capture technologies), SachSiSolar (MIT-spin out to develop revolutionary new materials to lower the cost of solar energy); and her current venture, change:WATER Labs (to commercialize frugal yet disruptive innovations to expand access to safe water and sanitation in the developing world).  She is a former protein biochemist (A.B., Harvard; Ph.D., Cornell), and holds an MBA and an MA in International Affairs (Columbia).  She was an original member of TED Fellows Advisory & Selection Committee and a Founding Council Member for NASA/USAID’s LAUNCH Accelerator. She has won a number of awards for the technologies and innovations that she has developed and is commercializing.



Ellie Fini
Co-founder of Bio-Adhesive Alliance Inc., and director of the sustainable infrastructure materials lab, Associate Professor, J. W. Fulbright Scholar at North Carolina A&T State University




Ellie Fini is the Co-founder of Bio-Adhesive Alliance Inc., and director of the sustainable infrastructure materials lab, Associate Professor, J. W. Fulbright Scholar at North Carolina A&T State University.  She received her Ph.D. at the  the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 on characterizing interfacial properties of adhesives and sealants.

She has been a research affiliate at MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering since 2011, and is currently serving as the associate editor of ASCE Journal of Materials as well as the inventor and co-founder of a start-up company, Bio-Adhesive Alliance Inc. She has been collaborating with multiple professional and scientific societies, federal agencies, and congressional offices, mainly as an academician. She has been an invited speaker at Kavli Frontiers of Science at the National Academy of Science; she also served as a program director for the National Science Foundation.  She has been actively fostering the culture of innovation and  entrepreneurship within her campus and science community.

Her achievements were recognized via multiple awards including NSF CAREER award, 2017 BEYA STEM Innovation award, and nomination for 2017 BioNight Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.  One of her recently patented inventions is a unique process to break down pig manure and convert it into an asphalt-binding adhesive. The innovative bio-adhesive can be used as either a full or partial substitute to standard petroleumbased adhesives.




Sanna Gaspard
Founder and CEO, Rubitection Inc.




Sanna Gaspard has a passion for entrepreneurship, healthcare, medical devices, and innovation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the University of Miami in Miami, FL (‘04).  She completed her Masters (’05) and PhD (’11) in BME at Carnegie Mellon University.

While earning her graduate  degree she received two patents for two medical technologies she invented. Her two inventions include an infant therapy device to support preterm infants’ health and an optical device for early bedsore detection. To support the commercialization of these technologies she founded two medical device companies, TLneoCare, LLC and Rubitection Inc. As CEO she developed the business strategy, IP strategy, and raised initial financing.

She has received recognition and awards including being selected as a finalist for the UpPrize Competition (’17), regional winner for the Alpha Lab Gear Hardware Cup (’17), SPIE Startup Challenge Semifinalist (’16), 2nd place winner at the HitLab Healthcare Challenge (’15), a finalist for the Mass Challenge Business accelerator in Boston (’13), 1st place at the 3 Rivers Investment Venture Fair’s Technology showcase (‘11), and IEEE New Face of Engineering (’10).

Her passion for science, technology, inventorship, and entrepreneurship is only match by her desire to  help students develop an interest in STEM fields and jobs.



Jason Kang
CEO and Co-Founder, Kinnos Inc.





Jason Kang is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kinnos Inc., a New York-based company that aims to raise the standard of infectious disease decontamination to protect healthcare workers, patients, and the general public. Their first product, Highlight®, is a patent-pending additive that greatly improves visibility, coverage, and end-user compliance of disinfectants. Highlight® is used by HazMat and biosafety units, was a grantee of the USAID Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge, and has been field-tested by NGOs and healthcare workers in Liberia, Guinea, and Haiti. Kinnos has additionally been recognized as winners of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Collegiate Inventors Competition, and Columbia Venture Competition, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NPR, Scientific American, and PBS NewsHour.

Prior to Kinnos, Jason served as Vice President of Engineering at Jibon Health Technologies, where he invented a low-cost medical device to treat postpartum hemorrhage. The device was awarded a $250k Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge seed grant by USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, UKAID, and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was brought to clinical trials in Bangladesh.

For his innovative work in global health, Jason served as a U.S. Delegate at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare, and is a Fellow of the Kairos Society. In 2016, Jason received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University, where he was an Egleston Scholar and graduated Tau Beta Pi.



Michele Ostraat
Downstream Research Center Leader, Aramco Research Center





Michele Ostraat, Downstream Research Center Leader for the Aramco Research Center – Boston, serves in a leadership role directing a technical team in applied research in chemistry, materials science, and engineering.  Her team translates materials discovery into commercial opportunities for diverse technologies, including membranes for gas separation, porous materials for catalysis, and advanced composites for corrosion resistance.  Prior to joining Aramco, she held numerous technical positions with increased responsibilities spanning new product and process development, prototyping, research and development portfolio management, and technology transfer.

Michele was a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Labs and Agere Systems, examining the synthesis of rare-earth doped aerosol nanoparticles and investigating the behavior of chalcogenide phase change materials.  Michele earned her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA.  She currently holds fourteen patents with additional patents pending in diverse technical areas, including:  nanotechnology, advanced catalysts, and electronic materials.  She has been a German-American Frontiers of Engineering Symposium Co-Chair, an International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) World Chemistry Congress Young Observer, and a National Academy of Engineering U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Recipient.

Alumni Ambassadors

Inaugural Ambassadors Class of 2014-2015

Karen Burg, PhD
Harbor Lights Endowed Chair & Professor, Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia

A graduate of North Carolina State University (B.S., Chemical Engineering) and Clemson University (M.S., Ph.D., Bioengineering), Karen completed a tissue engineering postdoctoral fellowship at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, before joining the faculty at Clemson University.  Her research program has evolved from tissue engineering for regenerative medicine application to the development of bench-top engineered tissue systems and diagnostics.  Following completion of an American Council of Education fellowship at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Georgia Institute of Technology, she was appointed Interim Vice Provost at Clemson University and Director of the Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering.  Prior to joining the University of Georgia, Karen served at  Kansas State University as Vice President for Research and Professor of Chemical Engineering.  Honors to Karen include a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the inaugural Swiss AO Research Prize, recognition as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s TR100 Young Innovator, an American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Fellow, an American Council on Education Fellow, and a US Department of Defense (DoD) Era of Hope Scholar.  Karen has given over 200 invited presentations and authored over 140 peer reviewed publications on the subject of engineered tissues.  Technologies from her team’s research serve as the basis for one spin-off company; a Burg invention is one of ten technologies featured in the ongoing Avon Foundation for Women - National Institutes of Health - Center for Advancing Innovation Breast Cancer Start-Up Challenge.  Karen has served on eight United States National Science Foundation (NSF) biomaterials-focused Engineering Research Center site visit teams and serves as reviewer for multiple national and international funding organizations, including the US NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the US DoD, the Swiss AO Foundation, the Swiss NSF, the Israel Science Foundation, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Rory Cooper, PhD
FISA/PVA Endowed Chair, Distinguished Professor of the Dept. of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Services, University of Pittsburgh


FISA/PVA Endowed Chair and a Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. He is also the Center Director at the Center of Excellence for Wheelchair and Related Technology, VA Rehabilitation Research & Development Center, and a Senior Research Career Scientist at the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, Dr. Cooper holds a secondary appointment at Pitt as Professor in both the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering. Dr. Cooper is also a Professor in the Robotics Institute, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Cooper attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (Signals and Systems) and his Master of Engineering in Electrical Engineering (Computer Control Systems). From there he went to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering (Biomedical Engineering and Signals and Systems). He did his post graduate fellowship at VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center at the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital in Hines, IL, where his discipline was Rehabilitation Engineering and Science.

Dr. Cooper works in collaboration with several organizations, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society North America, and the American Congress of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Cooper holds 8 patents and is the author/editor of 10 books, 30 book chapters, and over 600 journal publications, editorials and letters, and peer-reviewed abstracts and proceedings publications. He is a Founding Editor of the Assistive Technology Research Book series. He serves as an editorial board member for American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Assistive Technology, Journal of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, and Medical Engineering and Physics.

Dr. Cooper has received numerous honors for his work, including the Paralympic Sports Science Award from International Paralympic Committee, Secretaries Award for Diversity and Inclusion from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from the U.S. Army War College, Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Power of Work Award from Goodwill Industries of Western Pennsylvania, the da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award from the National MS Society - Michigan Chapter, and the Certificate of Appreciation from the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development - National Institutes of Health, amongst many others.

Sorin Grama
CEO and Co-Founder, Promethean Power Systems

Co-founder and CEO of Promethean Power Systems, a clean-energy start-up with offices in the US and India. Grama is also Guest Faculty at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Sorin is the principal inventor of a thermal energy storage system used in refrigeration applications. Its first commercial application is for chilling milk in rural India where frequent power outages require back-up diesel generators. Sorin’s thermal energy battery eliminates the diesel generator while preventing milk spoilage. In India, more than $10 billion worth of fresh produce and dairy goes to waste due to the lack of refrigeration and poor grid infrastructure. To date, Promethean has installed over 50 commercial milk chilling systems with a total energy storage capacity of over 1.5 MWh. Sorin developed the technology with funds from the National Science Foundation and is applying it for refrigeration applications in the US.

Prior to launching Promethean, Sorin was part-owner of a systems integration business in California, managed regional sales for National Instruments and was the lead author of two landmark reports on solar industry dynamics published by Greentech Media. In 2010 Sorin’s company co-founded Greentown Labs, a Boston incubator, to help start-up companies share prototyping space, tools and talent. Greentown Labs now houses over 50 cleantech start-ups at its new offices in Somerville, MA.

Sorin holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University and an MS in Engineering and Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sorin lives and works in India where he leads Promethean’s efforts to manufacture & commercialize the milk chilling systems for a world-wide market. He is originally from Romania.

Paul Sanberg
Sr. Vice President for Research and Innovation, University of South Florida
Founder and President, National Academy of Inventors

Founder and president of the National Academy of Inventors. He is Senior Vice President for Research & Innovation, Distinguished University Professor, and Executive Director of the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida, and founder and president of the National Academy of Inventors. He trained at York University, the University of British Columbia, the Australian National University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, among others. He has held academic positions at Ohio University, the University of Cincinnati, and Brown University. He is an inventor on approximately 100 health-related patents. His work has been instrumental in translating new pharmaceutical and cellular therapeutics to clinical trials and commercialization for Tourette syndrome, stroke, ALS, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s disease and he has significant biotech and pharmaceutical industry experience in these areas. He is the co-founder of Saneron CCEL Therapeutics, Inc. and Natura Therapeutics, in Tampa, and Stem Cells, Inc., in Palo Alto, California. He is the author of more than 600 scientific publications and is considered a highly cited scientist, with more than 20,000 citations to his published work. He serves on editorial boards for more than 30 scientific journals and has received numerous scientific awards. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and serves on the evaluation committee of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Steve Sasson
Kodak (retired)

Steve Sasson joined Kodak in 1973, and worked throughout the seventies as an individual contributor in the Kodak Apparatus Division research laboratories and he engaged in a number of early digital imaging projects. Among these was the design and construction of the first digital still camera and playback system in 1975. During the 1980’s, Steven served as a group leader and individual contributor for a number of digital imaging projects in the consumer products advanced development area. Among these was the first mega pixel digital camera utilizing DCT compression that stored images to flash memory cards.

During the first half of the 1990’s, Steven served as the chief engineer on the “Colorease” printer project which produced Kodak’s first high volume page size thermal printer that served as the basis for the introduction of Kodak’s self-service kiosk program. During this timeframe, he was the development manager for the emerging thermal printing platform within Kodak.

In 1996, Steven was named development manager of Output Systems for Kodak’s Professional Products organization. This organization developed and introduced a number of groundbreaking products, which included two families of thermal printers that provided the output engines for the large kiosk placement that occurred during this time. In addition, printers based on AgX, laser thermal and inkjet marking technologies were commercialized in support of the professional photography and graphics markets.

In 2001, he transitioned to the position of R&D development manager for the Retail Photofinishing Platform. This organization delivered the Digital Lab System software platform that was used to control the complete workflow on several partner minilabs around the world. In 2004 Steven moved to the Corporate Commercial Affairs (CCA) organization within Kodak where he served as the project manager for a major Intellectual Property litigation. He continued to work in the Intellectual Property Transactions (IPT) group at Kodak until his retirement from Kodak in February 2009.

Paul Stamets
Founder, Fungi Perfecti and Host Defense Organic Mushrooms

Founder of Fungi Perfecti and Host Defense Organic Mushrooms, and has been a dedicated mycologist for over thirty years. Over this time, he has discovered and coauthored new species of mushrooms, received nine patents, written six books and pioneered countless techniques in the field of edible and functional food mushroom cultivation. Two of his books, Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms and The Mushroom Cultivator have been heralded as the ‘bibles’ of the mushroom industry. His latest book, Mycelium Running, How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, has propelled his vision of using mushrooms to help save ecosystems and improve population health to the world stage. He is a TED and TEDMED speaker. Currently he is working with the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and NIH (National Institutes of Health/Virology), as well as with other universities on a variety of research projects.

Paul’s philosophy is that biodiversity is biosecurity. He sees the ancient Old Growth forests of the Pacific Northwest as a resource of incalculable value, especially in terms of its fungal genome. A dedicated hiker and explorer, his passion is to preserve and protect as many ancestral strains of mushrooms as possible from these pristine woodlands. He funds research to save rare strains of mushrooms that dwell within the old growth forests.

Paul has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the science of medicinal mushrooms and ecology. His TED (2008) talk “How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World” has been rated in the top 10 of all TED talks, and viewed more than >2.6 million times. His TEDMED (2011) introduced medicinal mushrooms to more than 800 physicians. Both TED and TEDMED talks have received 99% positive reviews on

In January of 2014, Paul received the highly acclaimed NAMA (North American Mycological Association, award for expanding the field of mycology for both amateurs and professionals.

Vinod Veedu
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Oceanit

Currently serves Oceanit, a leading Engineering/Research and Development Company, as the Director of Strategic Initiatives, responsible for supporting key Initiatives for the corporate business. He earned MS and PhD degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University (2003) and University of Hawaii, respectively (2006). Prior to joining Oceanit, Dr. Veedu worked at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Nanotechnology Center and at the Hawaii Nanotechnology Lab. In 2006, Dr. Veedu joined Oceanit as Senior Nanotechnology Engineer, leading Materials Science related efforts for the company. Dr. Veedu is an active researcher in the area of nanocomposite materials. His research is targeted towards developing multifunctional nanostructures and hybrid platforms for various commercial and defense applications. He has more than 25 approved/pending US patents. His works have received wide acceptance in the nanotechnology community. In 2007, he became part of the Guinness Book of World records for the creation of the smallest nanobrush. In 2008, Dr. Veedu began hosting his own TV show called “Weird Science with Dr. V”, on HawaiiNewsNow (a CBS/NBC affiliate channel). Dr. Veedu also serves the NASA Space Center in Houston as Technical Advisor and he also supports the Houston Technology Center as Energy Advisor. Since 2011, Dr. Veedu has been serving Rice University as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science department.

Invention Ambassadors Class of 2015-2016

Lisa DeLuca
Distinguished Engineer, IBM

Lisa DeLuca is a Technology Strategist for the IBM Commerce, Experience One organization. Lisa holds a Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University with minors in Business Administration and Multimedia Productions. In 2014, she was named one of Network World's 50 Most Fascinating People in the World of Technology.  She is a TED speaker, a self-­‐published author of a children’s book titled "A Robot Story", and the most prolific female inventor in IBM history and, at only 32 years old, one of the youngest inventors at IBM to ever reach the 100th Invention Plateau Award (an IBM internal patent award system).  Her innovation portfolio includes over 370 patent applications filed within the United
States and abroad, of which, over 150 have been granted, to date. The subject of her patent ideas range from areas such as cloud, mobile, social, security, and everything in between. Lisa has spoken at numerous tech conferences and written articles to share her technology and innovation passion with others.

Juan Gilbert
Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and Chairman of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department, University of Florida

Juan Gilbert is the Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and Chairman of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at  the  University  of  Florida  where  he  leads  the  Human  Experience Research Lab.  Dr. Gilbert has research projects in spoken language systems, advanced learning technologies, usability and accessibility, Ethnocomputing (Culturally Relevant Computing) and databases/data mining. He has published more than 140 articles, given more than 200 talks and obtained more than $24 million dollars in research funding. He is a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Gilbert is the inventor of Prime III, a universally designed voting technology that allows people to vote privately and independently on the same machine independent of their ability or disability. He is also the inventor of Applications Quest (AQ). AQ is an innovative data mining tool designed to solve Affirmative Action issues relating to the use of race/ethnicity, gender, national origin, etc. in university admissions, hiring and other practices.

In 2012, Dr. Gilbert received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama. He also received the American Association for he Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2014 Mentor Award. He was recently named one of the 50 most important African-­‐Americans in Technology. He was also named a Speech Technology Luminary by Speech Technology Magazine and a national role model by Minority Access Inc. Dr. Gilbert is also a National Associate of the National Research Council of the National Academies, an ACM Distinguished Scientist and a Senior Member of the IEEE. Recently, Dr. Gilbert was named a Master of Innovation by Black Enterprise Magazine, a Modern-­‐Day Technology Leader by the Black Engineer of the Year Award Conference, the Pioneer of the Year by the National Society of Black Engineers and he received the Black Data Processing Association (BDPA) Epsilon Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution. In 2002, Dr. Gilbert was named one of the nation's top African-­‐American Scholars by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. In 2013, the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association at Auburn University named their Distinguished Lecture Series in honor of Dr. Gilbert.
Dr. Gilbert testified before the Congress on the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act of 2008 for his innovative work in electronic voting. In 2006, Dr. Gilbert was honored with a mural painting in New York City by City Year New York, a non-­‐profit organization that unites a diverse group of 17 to 24 year-­‐old young people for a year of  full-­‐time,  rigorous  community  service,  leadership  development,  and  civic engagement.

Jay Harman
CEO, Pax Scientific, Inc.

Jay Harman is a naturalist, inventor, and entrepreneur.  Harman has taken a hands-on approach to his lifelong fascination with natural fluid systems.  In the process, he has grown successful biomimicry companies that design innovative products, ranging from prize-winning watercraft, to a non-invasive technology for measuring blood glucose, to his most recent companies, PAX Scientific and its subsidiaries.  With a goal to show manufacturing industries that more efficient equipment is profitable for both shareholders and the environment, PAX designs devices including fans, mixers, pumps, refrigeration systems, and distillation systems, all based on Jay’s revolutionary understanding of nature’s methods for streamlining fluid flow.

As well as his roles as CEO of PAX Scientific, Inc. and PAX Mixer, Inc., Jay acts as chairman of the board for PAX’s subsidiaries companies, PAX Water Technologies, Inc. and PAX Pure, Inc. He shares his experience and adventures in the natural world and the corporate jungle in his book, The Shark’s Paintbrush, with all proceeds supporting biomimicry education. Jay is also featured in Prince Charles’ documentary, Harmony, and his book of the same title, as well as Elemental, an award-winning documentary profiling three environmental activists around the world.

Andrew Hessel
Distinguished Researcher with the Bio/Nano Research Group at Autodesk Inc.

Andrew Hessel is a Distinguished Researcher with the Bio/Nano Research Group at Autodesk Inc. in San Francisco and a futurist in genomic technologies. Working as a connector and catalyst in biotechnology and synthetic biology, he helps industry, academic, and authorities better understand the rapid changes happening in life science. He also is the founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, the world’s first cooperative biotechnology company, which is aiming to produce open source viral therapies for cancer. He is a fellow at the University of Ottawa, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, and the former co-­‐ chair of bioinformatics and biotechnology at Singularity University.

Suzie Pun
Robert J Rushmer Professor of Bioengineering, an Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington

Suzie Pun earned her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology under the mentorship of Prof. Mark E. Davis. She then worked as a senior scientist at Insert Therapeutics/Calando Pharmaceuticals for three years developing polymeric drug delivery  systems  before  joining  the  Department  of  Bioengineering  at  University  of
Washington (UW).

She is currently the Robert J Rushmer Professor of Bioengineering, an Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering, and a member of the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute at UW.  Her research focus area is in biomaterials and drug delivery and she has published over 80 research articles in this area, holds six patents, and given over 100 invited presentations on her group’s work. She contributed toward the development of drug delivery vehicles that have entered clinical trials. More recently, her research group has developed methods for drug delivery to the central nervous system as well as injectable, synthetic hmostats for trauma treatment.

Suzie has been recognized for her work with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a Young Investigator Award from the Controlled Release Society, and the 2014 Inaugural Biomaterials Science Lectureship. Other honors include recognition as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s TR100 Young Innovator and as an American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering fellow.  Suzie has been committed to mentoring young scientists and engineers. She has mentored over 75 students in her laboratory at University of Washington, including 16 Ph.D. candidates and 13 postdoctoral fellows.  She has been recognized for her student mentorship with awards from both her department and the University of Washington.

Rebecca Richards-Kortum
Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University

Guided by the belief that all of the world’s people deserve access to health innovation, Professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum’s research and teaching focus on developing low-cost,  high-performance technology for low- resource settings. She is known for providing vulnerable populations in the developing world access to life- saving health technology, focusing on diseases and conditions that cause high morbidity and mortality, such as cervical and oral cancer, premature birth, and malaria. Professor Richards-Kortum’s work in appropriate point- of-care screening technologies has earned her induction into the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Rebecca is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University. Previously, she held the Cockrell Family Chair in Engineering #10 and was a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was also a Distinguished Teaching Professor. After receiving a B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1985, she continued her graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she received an MS in Physics in 1987 and a PhD in Medical Physics in 1990. She joined the faculty in Bioengineering at Rice University in 2005 and served as Chair of Bioengineering from 2005-2008 and 2012-2014.

Dr. Richards-Kortum’s research group is developing miniature imaging systems to enable better screening for oral, esophageal, and cervical cancer and their precursors at the point-of-care. She led development of a novel high resolution microendoscope capable of real-time, subcellular imaging of epithelial tissue. Her team developed low-cost (<$2500), robust hardware platforms, including a tablet- and cell-phone based system. Together with colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine and the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, she has carried out clinical trials involving more than 1,000 patients, which show that the device has promise to improve early diagnosis of esophageal, oral, and cervical precancer. In a prospective, multi-center clinical trial carried out in the US and China, high resolution microendoscopy improved specificity for esophageal precancer from 29% to 79%, without reducing sensitivity. Clinical trials of over 15,000 patients in China, Brazil, and El Salvador are now underway.

Her group has integrated advances in nanotechnology and microfabrication to develop novel, low-cost sensors to detect infectious diseases at the point-of-care, including HIV, cryptosporidium, malaria, and Tuberculosis. Her group developed a low-cost sensor to detect hemoglobin concentration; the device reduced per test cost by more than 100-fold (less than US$0.01 per test) compared to the standard of care. She led development of novel nucleic acid tests to enable diagnosis of HIV in infants in low-resource settings, introducing the first integrated paper and plastic device to enable isothermal amplification of HIV DNA.

Together with Maria Oden, Dr. Richards-Kortum led development and dissemination of low-cost, robust technologies to improve neonatal survival in sub-Saharan Africa. Her team developed a $160 bubble CPAP device to treat premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome; the device delivers the same flow and pressure as systems used in the US, at 30-fold reduction in cost. Initial clinical evaluation showed that the device improved survival rates from 24% to 65%, mirroring the impact of CPAP when it was introduced in the US in the 1970s. The device has been implemented at all government hospitals in Malawi, and introduced in Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa. In 2014, CPAP was recognized by the UN as one of 10 innovations that can save the lives of women and children now. The team is now developing a comprehensive set of technologies to enable provision of essential newborn care at district hospitals in Africa, with the goal to equip a district hospital serving a catchment area of 250,000 people for a cost of less than $10,000.

At Rice University, Dr. Richards-Kortum has established new educational programs in global health technologies. She founded the Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) program in which undergraduate students from multiple backgrounds learn to think beyond geographic and disciplinary boundaries to solve challenges in global health. In 2012, Science awarded BTB the Prize for Inquiry Based Instruction, which recognizes outstanding examples of inquiry-based and design-based engineering education modules. In addition, the National Academy of Engineering recognized BTB with the Real-World Education Prize for successfully integrating real world experiences into undergraduate curriculum. BTB has also been recognized by ASEE with the Chester Carlson Award (2007) and with the IEEE Educational Activities Board Vice-President Recognition Award (2008).

Michael Smith
Director of the Intel Software Academic Program for Perceptual Computing and the Internet of Things

Michael Smith is a visual computing architect and Director of the Intel Software Academic Program for Perceptual Computing and the Internet of Things. He is a specialist in image and video analytics with a focus on automated media understanding for video search and visualization. He has given over 100 invited presentations and he is the author of numerous scientific publications and a book on video indexing, search and summarization. He is a pioneer in health systems for remote monitoring and he is a co-founder of the Urban Health initiative for improving patient wellness in underrepresented communities.

He served as the Director of Research for France Telecom-Orange Labs, San Francisco, where he developed advanced media systems for smartphones and other mobile platforms. He developed seminal image processing and context aware analytics solutions to drastically increase face and location recognition in photographs on smartphones. As part of the Informedia Digital Video Library at Carnegie Mellon University, he developed patented technology for video metadata creation and summarization, which was licensed to several media organizations, including SonicFoundry and Sony.

He is also a specialist and innovator in entrepreneurial and education advances in developing countries. He recently worked with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to develop their national university system, where he served as the Vice President of Digital Media Studies and Chairman of the ICT Department. He has worked as a visiting scholar and Fulbright Specialist at the Universitaria de Investigación y Desarrollo, Colombia, the University of Campinas, Brazil, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He has held academic positions at the University of Texas in Austin, Huston-Tillotson University and Morehouse College. He also served as a research scientist and lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley as part of the NSF Broadening Participation in Computing Engineering Pathways Digital Library. Dr. Smith holds a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University and North Carolina A&T University.

Invention Ambassadors Class of 2016-2017

Aaron Baughman
Senior Technical Staff Member and lead data scientist with IBM’s Sports and Entertainment

Aaron Baughman a Senior Technical Staff Member and lead data scientist with IBM’s Sports and Entertainment for professional tennis and golf.

Early within his career, he worked on biometric identification such as face, fingerprint and iris recognition. Further, he was a technical lead on a DeepQA (Jeopardy!) project and an original member of the IBM Research DeepQA embed team.  He has published papers within knowledge discovery and data mining, biometrics and medical applications. Aaron published a book with Springer titled “Multimedia Data Mining and Analytics”.

Aaron holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, a M.S. in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins, and 2 certificates from the Walt Disney Institute.  Aaron is a 2-time IBM Master Inventor, IBM Academy of Technology member, Corporate Service Corps alumni, and a lifelong INFORMS Franz Edelman laureate.  He has 31 patents with many more pending.

Bertrand Cambou
Professor of Practice at Northern Arizona University

Bertrand Cambou is a Professor of Practice at Northern Arizona University where his primary research interests are in nanotechnologies. He is directing the cybersecurity effort at NAU, and is partnering with his colleagues in the development of disruptive power storage solutions. He is also an active entrepreneur, serving as a board member, and technical advisor to a private enterprise. Prior to his current position, Bertrand was a senior executive in Silicon Valley, in nanotechnologies. He has invented a novel magnetic transistor capable of sensing micro-currents for power management systems. He was a corporate officer at Advanced Micro Device, and spun off AMD’s memory division to create “Spansion” leading a successful IPO, raising $1B. He worked in the smartcard industry at Gemplus (now Gemalto) as president of Gemplus software. Bertrand spent 15 years at Motorola Semiconductor (now NXP-Freescale), where he was CTO for five years and was named Distinguished Innovator and scientific advisor of the BOD. His personal contribution at Motorola included the invention and development of the SmartMOS, MEMS technologies, and the III/V integration on silicon. From 1996 to 1999 he led the power PC effort at Motorola with Apple and IBM, contributing to the successful introduction of the G3 and G4 product family at Apple. Bertrand holds a Doctorate degree from Paris-South University (XI) in electronics, an Engineering degree from Supelec, and a Master in Physics from Toulouse University, France. He authored or co-authored 42 patent disclosures with 412 citations. In the last year alone he filed 10 patents, had papers accepted at the IEEE and NSF 2016 workshop “securing the Internet of Things” in Washington, the 2016 annual Cyber and Information Security conference in Oak Ridge, and a poster at the 2015 innovation forum for DOD in Austin.

Eric Fossum
Professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth and Director of the School’s Ph.D. Innovation Program

Eric Fossum is a Professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth and Director of the School’s Ph.D. Innovation Program .  He is a semiconductor device physicist and engineer specializing in image sensor technology and is currently exploring the Quanta Image Sensor. He is best known for the invention of the CMOS image sensor now used in billions of cameras. He was inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011 and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

He received his B.S. in Physics and Engineering from Trinity College, CT in 1979, his Ph.D. from Yale in 1984 and became an EE faculty member at Columbia. In 1990 he was recruited to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech where he managed JPL’s image sensor and focal-plane technology R&D and invented the CMOS image sensor. He then co-founded and co-led Photobit Corporation to commercialize the technology. Photobit was acquired by Micron in 2001. He later served as CEO of Siimpel Corporation to commercialize MEMS auto-focus actuators for camera phones.  He worked with Samsung Electronics before joining Dartmouth in 2010. He has published over 280 technical papers and holds over 160 US patents.   Dr. Fossum co-founded the International Image Sensor Society (IISS) and served as its first President. He and his wife operate a hobby farm in New Hampshire and he enjoys his time on his tractor.

Rick Hamilton
Optum, UnitedHealth Group

With expertise in Cloud, IoT, and AI, Rick Hamilton was formerly the most prolific inventor in IBM history.  He is currently recognized as the 22nd most prolific inventor in world history, with over 820 issued US patents. Rick is now with Optum, where he works broadly across strategic imperatives, including machine learning, genomics, blockchain, IoT, and cybersecurity, to help people live healthier lives and make healthcare work better.  

Ayanna Howard
Linda J.& Mark C. Smith Chair in Bioengineering, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Chief Technology Officer, Zyrobotics

Ayanna Howard is the Linda J.&Mark C. Smith Chair in Bioengineering, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Zyrobotics, a Georgia Tech VentureLab startup company.  Her area of research is centered around the concept of humanized intelligence, the process of embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous systems.  This work, which addresses issue of intelligent control as well as aspects of human-robot interaction in real-world environments, has resulted in over 200 peer-reviewed publications.

To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlightyed through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator and recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider.  In 2013, she also founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of therapy and educational products for children with special needs.

She received her B.S. in Engineering from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California.

Benjamin Hsiao
Distinguished Professor in Chemistry, Stony Brook University

Benjamin Hsiao is a Distinguished Professor in Chemistry at Stony Brook University, received his B.S. degree from National Taiwan University, Ph.D. from University of Connecticut, and post-doctorate training at University of Massachusetts. He joined DuPont Company as a staff scientist and spent 8 years in R&D before coming to Stony Brook University. He served as Chair of the Chemistry Department and held Vice President for Research position at Stony Brook University. Currently, Hsiao is a Founding Co-Director of Innovative Global Energy Solutions Center (, aiming to prototype ‘sustainability for off-grid communities of tomorrow’, using the Turkana Basin Institute in northern Kenya as a living laboratory. He is also the Director of Center for Advanced Technology in Integrated Electric Energy Systems (, with the mission to enhance the development and integration of advanced technologies into electric energy systems on multiple scales.

Hsiao has a distinguished reputation in polymer science. His current research interests are mainly focused on the development of sustainable nanostructured materials for water pufication. He published over 442 peer-reviewed scientific papers, 42 reviews and chapters in books and encyclopedias, 228 conference proceedings, obtained 34 issued patents (including 20 US patents) and 21 pending patent applications, and edited 2 books. He was elected as Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of American Chemical Society, Fellow of American Physical Society, Fellow of Materials Research Society, Fellow of National Academy of Inventors, and received SUNY Distinguished Professor, Hononary Professor from University of Queensland in Australia, Chang-Jiang Scholar from Education Ministry of China, Co-operative Research Award from Division of Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering of American Chemical Society, NSF Special Creativity Award and DuPont Young Faculty Award. Hsiao and his team have developed a highly permeable breakthrough membrane technology using nanofibrous materials for water purification, which removes pathogens and contaminants in water using gravity or solar heat.  This invention can provide affordable and sustainable drinking water solutions to people in remote communities and after catastrophic disasters, and the technology has been highlighted by the AAU, and the NSF in a 2015 exhibit for the U.S. Congress.

Anthony Mulligan
Founder and CEO, Hydronalix

Anthony Mulligan is a founder and CEO Hydronalix, Inc, based in Sahuarita, AZ, which is a developer of small autonomous unmanned surface vehicles and related power generation and sensor packages for maritime applications.  Hydronalix is known Internationally for its EMILY Motorized Rescue Buoy for swift water rescue, and tsunami response.  Hydronalix is a 2015 Tibbett’s Awardee.  In January 2016 Hydronalix teamed with Texas A&M University Center for Robot Assisted Search and Rescue to successfully deploy EMILY systems to Greece to assist with the Syrian Ocean Drowning crisis while migrating across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Island of Lesvos.

Previously, Mr. Mulligan was a founder in 1989 and CEO of Advanced Ceramics Research, Inc (ACR), until its acquisition by BAE Systems in 2009. ACR started with a single $50,000 SBIR phase I program and grossed over $135 million until its acquisition.  In 2011 ACR was inducted into the SBA’s SBIR Hall of Fame. Mr. Mulligan has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

His latest project, EMILY was selected as Grand Award Invention of the Year (for Security Category) by Popular Science for 2010, and selected as #7 of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010” by Time magazine. In 2012 Scientific American Magazine listed EMILY as one of 7 Additional Compelling Breakthroughs that are poised to change the world. EMILY was nominated by the Canadian Safe Boating Council for the “2012 CASBA Maritime Industry Award”.

Maria Oden
Professor in the Practice of Engineering in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, and Director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) at Rice University

Maria Oden is a Professor in the Practice of Engineering in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, and Director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) at Rice University. Oden also co-directs the Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health at Rice where undergraduate students design technologies to address healthcare challenges identified by clinical partners around the world. She has about 25 years of combined academic, research, clinical experience in biomedical engineering and engineering design.  As director of the OEDK, a 20,000 sq. ft. engineering design studio that provides ready access to all the tools, supplies and resources students need to invent and bring engineering design projects to life , Oden collaborates with Rice faculty members to develop and execute engineering design programs for undergraduate students in all engineering disciplines at Rice.  

Oden’s innovative approach to creating an invention ecosystem at Rice links excellence in teaching, technology development and leadership of the OEDK.  Through collaborations fostered by Oden, students are presented with real-world problems brought to Rice by partners from, industry, local community partners, Texas Medical Center and university researchers.  Several technologies from the global health technology program are now commercially available. Oden, faculty colleagues and students in her classes were the inventors of a bCPAP system to help premature babies breathe, a syringe pump, an apnea detection and correction monitor, medication dosing clips, a blood pressure monitor for pregnant women, an incubator and dozens of other technologies. 

As important as Oden’s efforts have been in creating the bricks and mortar facility at Rice, she has — even more importantly — driven the pedagogical efforts in incorporating engineering design and invention into the curriculum of the George R. Brown School of Engineering. Students now have the opportunity to start inventing in courses starting their freshman year and deepening as they move through their undergraduate education.  In addition to her professional and teaching responsibilities at Rice, Oden collaborates with colleagues around the nation to foster growth in undergraduate design and invention education, as well as global health technology design. For her efforts in educating students, Oden has twice, in 2012 and in 2016, been awarded the George R. Brown Prize for Superior Teaching from Rice University, which is voted on by alumni of the university. She has also been awarded the 2012 Fred Merryfield Design Award by American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for national excellence in teaching engineering design.  For her role in the invention of numerous global health technologies and taking life-saving health solutions to the developing world, Oden and colleague Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum received the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation in 2013.

Louie Schwartzberg
Director, Cinematographer, and Producer, Moving Art

Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery using his time-lapse, high-speed and macro cinematography techniques.

Louie’s recent theatrical releases include the 3D IMAX film Mysteries of the Unseen World with National Geographic, narrated by Forest Whitaker, and the pollination documentary Wings of Life for Disneynature, narrated by Meryl Streep. Mysteries is a journey into invisible worlds that are too slow, too fast, too small and too vast for the human eye to see. Designed to inspire, educate and evolve our perspective on the world, Schwartzberg creates and curates Moving Art™ videos, which can be found on your smart phone and Netflix. Louie’s three TED talks have gone viral with over 47 million combined views. His Gratitude Revealed series of shorts recently launched on Supported by the Templeton Foundation, and science and analytics by the Greater Good Center at UC Berkeley, the series explores the virtues of gratitude. nematography techniques.

John Warner
President, Chief Technology Officer, and Board of Directors, Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, LLC

John Warner is the recipient of the 2014 Perkin Medal, widely acknowledged as the highest honor in American Industrial Chemistry. In 2004 he received The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring (considered one of the highest awards for US science education). He received his BS in Chemistry from UMASS Boston, and his PhD in Chemistry from Princeton University. After working at the Polaroid Corporation for nearly a decade, he then served as tenured full professor at UMASS Boston and Lowell (Chemistry and Plastics Engineering). In 2007 he founded the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, LLC with Jim Babcock, (A research organization developing green chemistry technologies) where he serves as President and Chief Technology Officer, and Beyond Benign (a non-profit dedicated to sustainability and green chemistry education). He is one of the founders of the field of Green Chemistry, co-authoring the defining text Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice with Paul Anastas. He has published over 250 patents, papers and books. His recent work in the fields of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, solar energy and construction and paving materials are examples of how green chemistry principles can be immediately incorporated into commercially relevant applications. Warner received the American Institute of Chemistry's Northeast Division's Distinguished Chemist of the Year for 2002 and the Council of Science Society President’s 2008 Leadership award. Warner was named by ICIS as one of the most influential people impacting the global chemical industries. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and named one of “25 Visionaries Changing the World” by Utne Reader.