ASU Edson companies innovate future in medicine, public health

March 18, 2014

Two teams from ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are making scientific breakthroughs by developing ways to prevent fogging on surgical lenses and producing a tablet that will immediately test for contaminated water.

The teams, consisting of students, researchers and faculty, are seeing their globally impactful and innovative ideas come to life through the university's Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides seed funding, mentorship and office space to help students launch viable businesses. Ajjya Acharya and Clarizza Watson founded SiO2 through ASU's Edson Initiative Download Full Image

The initiative selects 20 projects and provides up to $20,000 in funding per project. Edson is open for all students across ASU to apply. The deadline for 2014 is April 1.

Flat water

Nicole Herbots, ASU professor emeritus of physics, and teammates Clarizza Watson, a chemical engineer with her master's in business administration, and Ajjya Acharya, a graduate researcher with a degree in biochemistry and genetics, are developing ways to prevent fogging on microscopic surgical tools and cameras, sport lenses and vehicles with their patents for VitreOX, VitreSport and VitreShield.

“We’re changing the way the surface interacts with the molecules at the nanoscale,” Herbots said. “We force a surface to ... interact with the water so it doesn’t form a drop. It forms a sheet.”

Doctors have to repetitively clean microscopic lenses during surgery, and the process can be “highly disruptive to the rhythm of the operation,” causing a loss of view that can lead to unintentional injury to the patient, according to Eric Culbertson, a general surgeon and plastic surgery fellow at UCLA.

“It means shorter surgery time for the surgeon, shorter surgery time for the patient, less infection, less scarring,” Herbots said. “It’s not just good for everybody, it also has an economic impact – on the medical side, on the pain and suffering side, and the cost of procedure.”

Currently, SiO2 Nanotech's (their company) technology is commercialized and sold to manufacturers in the non-medical field. However, the team, with the help of Edson and other incubator programs, has expanded their potential market by patenting and working on products applicable to sports and vehicle safety.

Biosensing tablet

The idea for HydroGene Biotechnologies was born while Maddie Sands was doing research in Guatemala. Sands, a master’s student in global health who studied anthropology as an honors undergraduate, realized people in small, rural towns drank contaminated water even after being informed of the danger of germs and microbes.

“There was a real disconnect because the water looks clean,” Sands said. "There needed to be a way to easily detect contaminated water.”

Sands, who is also a pre-health student at ASU, took the problem to Nisarg Patel, Joe Yun, Hyder Hussain and Ryan Muller, fellow students she met through her science classes. “We want to help those in developing countries who don’t have a way to test for contaminated water so we can treat the water and cut down on water-borne diseases such as childhood diarrhea,” Sands said.

Most existing biosensors are too large, expensive or require electronic machinery that requires extensive technical expertise, rendering them unsuitable for people in developing countries, said Patel, a double major in molecular biosciences and biotechnology and political science.

“So our solution is to use the power of synthetic biology to solve that problem by creating a cheap, portable biosensor that can detect any source of water at any time,” Patel said.

Sands said Edson is helping them branch out to market their company's products to backpackers, the military, the meat industry and hospitals to aid in paying for the non-profit side of getting the tablets into the hands of those who need them the most.

Edson and the university have been helpful to his team, Patel said: “We’ve been able to get support from Edson Innovation challenge, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as the School of Life Sciences in order to turn our idea into a reality, and we’re really thankful for the support they have given us through funding, mentorship, as well as resources to turn it from just something in the lab to something we can take to the real world, because that’s what we really strive to do.”

Written by Sarah Muench. This story is an excerpt from the upcoming issue of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Magazine.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


ASU helps get ideas off the ground at 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University

March 18, 2014

1,000-plus students to engage in developing solutions to major world problems

Watch the coverage unfold on Storify. CGI U graphic Download Full Image

ASU student Kathleen Stefanik is no stranger to overcoming adversity.

Having grown up in extreme poverty, she became the first member of her family to earn a college degree. After making many personal sacrifices to secure the educational future of her three children and earning an associate's degree at Mesa Community College, Stefanik transferred into ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation and Barrett, the Honors College.

Now, she is working on her undergraduate degree in industrial and organizational psychology and holds a 4.19 GPA.

Stefanik exemplifies the 200 Sun Devils chosen to represent ASU at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), hosted on the Tempe campus this weekend. Her "commitment to action" – a signature part of CGI U – is to help struggling farmers in Peru increase crop production by using an ancient method of soil improvement called Terra Preta. This technique can enable them to become businessmen, in addition to feeding their families, thereby pulling their communities out of the cycle of poverty.

More than 1,000 students like Stefanik, committed to transformational change, will take part in the March 21-23 event. They will be inspired by President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton and other social change leaders who aim to educate and empower through panel discussions, networking events and a culminating Day of Action in central Phoenix.

These undergraduate and graduate students will engage in developing solutions to some of the most pressing concerns of the Millennial generation, including human rights, women’s social and economic empowerment and combating HIV/AIDS in the United States.

"By sharing their commitments to action – new, specific and measurable plans spanning areas such as education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health – students will gain new perspectives about how to most effectively implement their ideas," said Jacqueline Smith, executive director of University Initiatives and adviser to the president for social embeddedness, who is leading the ASU effort.

Staff members for many areas, including University Initiatives, ASU Gammage, Sun Devil Fitness Complex, Public Affairs, the Memorial Union, UTO, the Enterprise Marketing Hub, ASU Police, Educational Outreach and Student Services, Facilities Management and Parking and Transit Services have been working with the CGI U national staff for months to help execute the event.

The students will be joined by experts, entrepreneurs and civically engaged celebrities, including Bill Drayton, chief executive officer, Ashoka; Gabrielle Giffords, former U.S. Representative and founder, Americans for Responsible Solutions; Mark Kelly, former astronaut and founder, Americans for Responsible Solutions; ASU alum Jimmy Kimmel, host and executive producer, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”; John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona; Cindy Hensley McCain, founding member, Eastern Congo Initiative; Reeta Roy, president and chief executive officer, The MasterCard Foundation; María Elena Salinas, anchor, Univision News; Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia; and Lauryn Williams, U.S. Olympic gold medalist in sprinting and silver medalist in bobsledding.

“Each year, the commitments and partnerships that come out of CGI University prove that young people are not only up to the task of working toward a safer, more sustainable world, but that they are eager to get started now,” said Chelsea Clinton. “Whether interested in starting a social venture to fight HIV/AIDS, or increasing women’s interest in STEM in remote areas of the world, students come to CGI U to turn their ideas into action. We are thrilled to bring this meeting to ASU, which has the largest solar energy portfolio of any university in America and a strong commitment to positive social change and innovation.”

CGI U 2014 attendees will have access to more than $750,000 in seed funding to implement their commitments. The funding marks the largest sum in the meeting’s history, including $650,000 from the growing CGI University Network of more than 55 colleges and universities, and another $100,000 through the Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge, a competition between aspiring student entrepreneurs with sustainable enterprises.

On Sunday, students will gather in downtown Phoenix for the Clinton Foundation’s ninth Day of Action. The morning of community service will be in collaboration with PHX Renews, a partnership between the City of Phoenix and Keep Phoenix Beautiful, that aims to transform previously vacant lots in the city into vibrant and sustainable public spaces. To kick off the Day of Action, Chelsea Clinton and President Bill Clinton will be joined by Mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton, Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and former astronaut Mark Kelly.

CGI U at ASU is a Zero Waste event, exemplifying ASU's deep commitment to sustainability.

To read more about ASU at CGI U, visit the website The official CGI U website can be seen here: To follow the weekend’s events, tune in to ASU’s CGI U Storify page at

Follow CGI U at ASU on Twitter at @CGIU and @ClintonGlobal or on Facebook at for meeting news and highlights. The official meeting hashtag is #CGIU. Plenary sessions will also be live streamed during the meeting at

Sharon Keeler