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July 12, 2023

Engineering faculty recognized with Early Career Innovator Awards

Bhuvana Krishnaswamy
Bhuvana Krishnaswamy

Bhuvana Krishnaswamy, Charles Ringrose assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ophelia Venturelli, an assistant professor of biochemistry and an affiliate of chemical and biological engineering, are two of four researchers from across the university selected for Early Career Innovator Awards.

The awards are sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) and help kick off the 175th anniversary of the university by recognizing its early career faculty members for engaging in technology transfer and commercialization activities.

The awardees were selected by OVCRGE from a list of finalists provided by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Awardees receive $50K in funding. Each has had multiple disclosures and inventions accepted for commercialization.

Ophelia Venturelli
Ophelia Venturelli

Krishnaswamy and her team develop algorithms and systems to enable communication between devices that have limited battery power. She and her students have designed and deployed wireless communication links spread over a wide area to enable real-time monitoring and tracking in applications such as smart farming and food safety. Her team’s innovations in building low-power wireless networks and battery-less devices have resulted in low-cost deployments that can make remote monitoring inexpensive. Two of her innovations were finalists for the WARF Innovation Award in 2019 and 2020 and her work has attracted interest from companies. Her research has been recognized by an NSF CAREER Award, an N2Women Rising Star Award, and a Hilldale Fellowship, among others.

“Our group is keen on addressing fundamental problems in wireless communications in challenging and constrained environments. We have developed algorithms and built infrastructure to connect battery-less devices that harvest energy from radio signals, and battery-powered devices that are buried underground to name a few,” Krishnaswamy says.

Venturelli seeks to elucidate the molecular and ecological design principles of microbial communities using tools from systems and synthetic biology. The tools she creates will enable companies and academic researchers to better understand the complicated ecosystem microbial communities create for each other. These technologies have broad applicability in human health, animal health, sustainability, agriculture and other industries.

“We are passionate about making fundamental advances in our ability to predict and design the microbiome to our benefit, Venturelli says. “We aim to design microbiomes with tailored functions and interventions that can precisely steer these complex systems to desired states. To achieve these goals, we combine computational modeling, high-throughput experiments and synthetic biology.”

“Throughout its history, UW–Madison researchers have produced transformative discoveries within a culture that fosters bringing those discoveries to the market,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “Recognizing early career faculty for their contributions to the commercialization of technology out of UW-Madison is a great way to celebrate our historical achievements in entrepreneurship while also looking forward to the promise of future innovation to come from the efforts of faculty such as these awardees.”

Other awardees include Guelay Bilen-Rosas, associate professor of anesthesiology in the School of Medicine and Public Health and Quanyin Hu, an assistant professor of pharmacy.

A previous version of this story was published by OVCRGE.