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November 11, 2019

Engineering advances among top innovations in WARF competition

Technical advances from College of Engineering faculty and affiliates were among the top inventions in the 2019 WARF innovation competition.

A team of Biochemistry Assistant Professor Ophelia Venturelli, an affiliate in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biochemistry Assistant Professor Philip Romero, an affiliate in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Ryan Hsu (biochemistry) was one of two 2019 WARF Innovation Award winners.

The team developed a microfluidic tool for mapping how bacteria interact in complex communities called microbiomes (such as the digestive tract). The ability to investigate these interactions on a large scale has implications from personalized medicine to improved food safety.

“(The technology) could have very broad applications,” says Romero. “We’re mostly targeting human health because of the importance of the microbiome in practically every disease we know.”

The other winner was Mark Saffman (physics), who developed simplified optical hardware for quantum computing. His technology, recently licensed to ColdQuanta Inc., improves an apparatus for particle trapping, which will reduce the cost and complexity of next-generation quantum computing devices.

An independent panel of judges selected the Innovation Award winners from a field of six finalists drawn from among approximately 350 invention disclosures submitted to WARF over the past 12 months. The winning inventions each receive an award of $10,000, with the funds going to the UW-Madison inventors named on each project.

Among the other finalists were Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Bhuvana Krishnaswamy and Yaman Sangar for their power-saving, data-transmitting system for wireless remote sensing.

The announcement of the award winners and annual grant capped a day devoted to innovation. Now in its second year, WARF Innovation Day brought together industry innovators, researchers, investors, students and the public for a one-of-a-kind technological showcase. More than 300 attendees were treated to quick pitch presentations from WARF Accelerator teams as well as participants from two other UW System campuses, UW-Platteville and UW-Milwaukee.