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I-Squared winners use innovation to impact

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Yi-Chang Chiu, founder of the Metropia app, accepts the information technology award from President Ann Weaver Hart in the UA Museum of Art during the I-Squared Awards for Innovation and Impact on Thursday. Other awards were given based on their improvement of quality of life through research and innovation.

The I-Squared Awards for Innovation and Impact recognized UA faculty and researchers on Thursday who worked toward the improvement of the quality of life through their research and innovation.

“Researchers are the lifeblood of the technology commercialization process,” said Douglas Hockstad, director of Tech Transfer Arizona at Tech Launch Arizona. “We wanted to acknowledge the hard work and persistence required by researchers to take innovations through that process to a point where they can have a social and economic impact.”

Victor Hruby, regents’ professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry in the UA College of Science, was awarded the I-Squared Award for Chemistry.

“This award represents that I have an extremely talented group,” Hruby said. “I’m a lucky man to have such talented people in my group that can look at scientific problems and come up with new solutions together.”

Hruby was recognized for the invention of a peptide that aids in the production of photoprotective melanin, which acts as a natural protector against skin cancers.

Regarding his award-winning work ethic, Hruby emphasized the importance of active curiosity and asking questions most of his peers never considered.

“I just love to learn new things,” he said. “This is what motivates me: to find new ways of thinking about the way our universe works.”

The I-Squared Award for Biomedicine was awarded to Eugene Gerner, professor emeritus of cellular and molecular medicine at the UA Cancer Center.

Gerner received the award for creating Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals, which is a Tucson-based company that currently has two therapeutic products in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of clinical testing.

“Our therapies have the potential to dramatically reduce deaths due to certain cancers in both adults and children,” Gerner said.

Yi-Chang Chiu, a UA civil engineering associate professor, was awarded the I-Squared Award for Information Technology.

According to Hockstad, Chiu’s research, and the app Metropia developed as a result, “is creating social impact by helping individuals in metropolitan areas take an active role in reducing traffic congestion and [carbon dioxide] emissions by reducing travel time and improving traffic flow. This helps improve quality of life for individuals by reducing stress and transit times, and increases efficiency of operations for communities.”

Metropia, Inc., is a company that aims to bring attention to a mobile app, which encourages commuters to alter their driving habits in order to improve regional traffic.

The I-Squared Award for Engineering was awarded to Linda Powers, professor and Thomas Brown Chair for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Powers worked on the development and commercialization of hand-held sensor technologies capable of detecting and identifying microbes.

Joel Cuello, a professor for the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, was awarded the I-Squared Award for Agriculture and Life Sciences for “help in the development of a greener economy by reducing the use of limited resources such as water, land and fossil fuel,” Cuello said. 

Cuello’s unique work revolved around the innovation of different ways of growing algae for sustainable biofuel production.

Lastly, the I-Squared Award for Campus Collaboration was awarded to the University Libraries Business Intelligence Team for providing business intelligence and research to Tech Launch.

Amongst the team is Sandra Kramer, Jason Dewland, Cindy Elliot and Jennifer Martin. 

The team was awarded, additionally, for their hand in helping Tech Launch Arizona in their efforts to directly develop new UA technologies and startups. 

“Any commercialization effort takes a team to be successful,” Hockstad said. “But in the end, it’s the inventor who provided that original innovation that served as the seed to grow the entire process — from invention to the social and economic impact it might create. It’s important to recognize individual inventors to both acknowledge their contributions as well as encourage others to participate in the commercialization process.”

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