Home Page Display: 
image title

Engineering success: It’s all in the mind(set)

March 7, 2019

A Kern Family Foundation grant helps ASU faculty teach students how to better create value in their communities and society

The right skills and the right mindset are both necessary for success.

Equipping engineers with technical skills means they can build something, but shifting their mindset can mean the products and processes they build will be useful to society.

This is the goal of teaching the entrepreneurial mindset, a mission of the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network, or KEEN. KEEN is a collaboration among 38 colleges and universities, including Arizona State University, focused on preparing engineering students to create personal, economic and societal value through purposeful careers.

man speaking to students at camp

James Collofello, co-principal investigator on the Kern Family Foundation grant project, speaks to a group of incoming freshmen and student counselors at the E2 welcome event for new students. Photo by Marco-AlexisChaira /ASU

In 2016, ASU received a $2.86 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation to further the entrepreneurial mindset — known as EM — in engineering education on a national scale. ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering implemented the grant through a two-phase approach aiming to foster this mindset among students and faculty, provide instructor workshops and pilot a faculty mentorship program introducing EM as a teaching approach.

By 2019, the ASU initiative reached nearly 5,000 new students and chronicled 25 EM@ASU case studies where EM was fully and deeply integrated throughout the Fulton Schools curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs.

“Progress on this project is going very well,” said James Collofello, professor of computer science and engineering, vice dean of Academic and Student Affairs and co-principal investigator of the Kern Family Foundation grant project. “Our plan is to institutionalize EM into all of our 17 ABETAccreditation Board for Engineering and Technology programs over the next two years.”

Giving students the mindset to make an impact

The entrepreneurial mindset encompasses the three C’s: curiosity, connections and creating value.

Curiosity leads to discoveries by investigating what exists and what works. Students learn that a single piece of information isn’t useful on its own, so they must connect their discoveries with meaningful insights and innovative solutions. These steps lead to creating value by anticipating and meeting society’s needs.

students sitting around table talking and working

Students at the E2 first-year student welcome event participate in Sparky’s Vista, an activity introducing the entrepreneurial mindset and the three C’s (curiosity, connections and creating value) to freshmen. An instructional video initiates the activity and includes an introductory message explaining the importance of EM within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Over the past three summers, more than 4,900 students engaged in the Sparky’s Vista activity. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

“If you employ EM, you’ll be curious about what’s already out there, what worked in the past, what didn’t and why,” said Layla Reitmeier, the ASU Kern Grant project manager in the Fulton Schools. “You know why you’re creating something.”

The usefulness of EM isn’t limited to students who will go on to create their own startups. These skills are important to working in industry as well as making government, nonprofits and all types of community-based organizations more competitive.

Students who had embraced EM were encouraged to apply for special student and research mini-grants to support their work. Others were invited to become Entrepreneurial Catalysts. These exceptional students provide coaching to their peers through one-on-one appointments, workshops, presentations and events, as well as through partnering with faculty.

Man standing in front of PowerPoint presentation

Robotics engineering student Claudio Vignola presents his entrepreneurial mindset research conducted with faculty member Jeremi London at the 2017 Frontiers of Education conference in Indianapolis. Vignola’s research involved developing new course curriculum and studying the outcome on student learning. Photo courtesy of Claudio Vignola

The concept of creating value inspired robotics engineering major Claudio Vignola to apply EM concepts in his projects and classes.

He worked with former Fulton Schools Assistant Professor Jeremi London to incorporate EM in an undergraduate statistics course.

While many engineering courses apply a project-based learning approach, math-intensive courses like engineering statistics do not. Vignola and London explored how project-based learning and applying an entrepreneurial mindset impacted students’ understanding of engineering statistics.

The course curriculum developed through their research tasked student teams with choosing an area of interest and getting funding to explore the effects of statistics on that field. They found that fostering a sense of curiosity, emphasizing the value of understanding statistics and demonstrating the ability to make connections influenced student success in the course.

Vignola and London published their work in IEEE Xplore. Vignola also presented their results at the 2017 Frontiers in Education conference in Indianapolis.

“It was terrifying at first,” Vignola said of the experience at FIE 2017. “I was the only undergraduate student at the conference, which put a lot of pressure on me. But I can say it was fantastic that I got the opportunity to connect with many researchers in engineering education, many of whom are prestigious faculty from around the world.”

Empowering faculty to implement entrepreneurial mindset in classrooms

People looking at a robot in maze

Lecturer Ryan Meuth (right) watches a demonstration of a robotics project with first-year computer science, engineering and informatics students in a FSE 100 introductory course. Meuth incorporates the entrepreneurial mindset and customer experience exercises in his introductory courses as well as senior-level capstone courses. Photo by Cheman Cuan

To better incorporate the entrepreneurial mindset in engineering curriculums, faculty members were encouraged to submit proposals for KEEN Professorship mini-grants, which provided up to $12,000 to support development, implementation and dissemination of EM within their courses, programs or labs.

Thirty-three tenured and tenure-track faculty, lecturers and adjunct instructors received mini-grants, each proposing a different way to implement EM in their interactions with students.

Other faculty members were tasked with implementing EM in the introductory courses known as FSE 100 and capstone courses that wrap up a student’s undergraduate education.

Computer science, engineering and informatics Lecturer Ryan Meuth teaches both introductory and capstone courses where he has applied the customer discovery aspects of EM to his teaching approach.

In one of his FSE 100 introductory courses, Meuth tasks students with designing and building a one-eighth-scale robotic vehicle that can pick up and transport a passenger who uses a wheelchair. When students try to figure out the mechanics of their vehicle, Meuth asks them to consider how their decisions will affect the customer.

“It highlights the need to think about the customer experience when designing the solution to a problem,” Meuth said.

He has applied similar customer discovery elements to capstone classes through teaching Agile-based project management, a commonly used process in many industry teams. The Agile Mindset and the entrepreneurial mindset overlap in that they prioritize the customer experience.

Two men looking at laptop

Engineering students demonstrate Hygiea, a user-friendly interface to help people identify and classify articles of trash, at an Innovation Showcase event where upper-division students demonstrate their projects. Hygiea is one example of an entrepreneurially minded student project. The Hygiea team has pitched its waste management system at student entrepreneur and innovation events and raised funding to create a useful product. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

“The effort’s effect on project quality and sponsor satisfaction has been dramatic,” Meuth said. “I had tested using Scrum in one of my courses last semester, and it was such a success that I’ve rolled it out to all 14 of the capstone sections I’m supervising this spring.”

Going forward, he’s looking for more ways to develop EM content for the courses he teaches.

“I’m interested in learning more techniques and activities I can bring to my students,” Meuth said, “as well as sharing what has worked for me with the KEEN network.”

Expanding faculty mentorship opportunities

In May 2018, the Kern Family Foundation grant was renewed for another two-year period. This extension allows ASU’s KEEN project to implement its Phase 3 goals: more broadly implementing and institutionalizing the entrepreneurial mindset among faculty members to reach more students, and sharing the ASU team’s findings with other KEEN network universities across the country.

“The Kern Family Foundation realizes that the way to reach more students is through faculty,” Reitmeier said. “And the way to take care of faculty is to support them through mentorship to understand EM so they can sustain this work.”

This wider-reaching approach takes the form of a faculty mentorship program. With the renewed grant, the Fulton Schools will study engineering faculty mentorship programs to determine programs that work and how to implement them effectively to create value for both the mentee and the university.

“It’s a very EM way of approaching how we can help mentor faculty,” Reitmeier said.

Meuth agrees that mentorship is a valuable part of the program.

“It’s the mentorship interaction and opportunity to collaborate (with the KEEN network) that communicates the true purpose, potential benefit and need for developing the entrepreneurial mindset in our students,” Meuth said.

people sitting around table working

Ann McKenna (left), director of The Polytechnic School and co-principal investigator on the Kern Family Foundation grant project, works with engineering faculty at the ASU Convening on Engineering Faculty Mentorship Think Tank 2 in November. Faculty from universities nationwide discussed how the ASU Kern grant can assist in establishing partnerships to research and implement activities to support faculty mentorship. Photo courtesy of Layla Reitmeier


Top photo: Two students develop an idea to solve a global challenge in the 48-hour intensive design experience called Devils Invent at ASU. Students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are introduced to the concepts of the entrepreneurial mindset, a mission of the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network, in first-year through senior-year courses, extracurricular activities and beyond. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU 

Monique Clement

Communications specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Taking anthropology from the lab and field to the corner office

ASU alum was first in his field to become American Anthropological Association’s top exec; now he’s helping the next generation think more broadly about their future careers

February 6, 2019

Before becoming the first trained anthropologist to helm the American Anthropological Association, Ed Liebow got his start at Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change (then called the Department of Anthropology).

Now, he’s leading fellow anthropologists from around the world to expand into different career sectors and lend their expertise and solutions to a wide range of pressing issues. photo of Ed Liebow in present day Ed Liebow is the executive director of the American Anthropological Association. Photo courtesy of Ed Liebow Download Full Image

As executive director, Liebow oversees all operational aspects of the AAA, which has 10,000 members, publishes more than 20 journals and organizes a host of annual meetings, fellowship opportunities and mentorship programs.

“We call public attention to the effort to understand the human condition and its applications for some of the world’s most pressing problems,” he said.

Liebow can trace his own passion for anthropology back to his childhood upbringing.

“I grew up in the Chicago area in the 1950s and ’60s, a witness to remarkable ethnic diversity and strict residential segregation,” he said. “I didn’t have a vocabulary to describe what I was observing until I started my undergraduate, where my very first term I took an anthropology class and was excited by the careful thought and nuanced language with which cultural differences and confluences were discussed.”

After a few more classes, Liebow was hooked. Later, as he began his PhD at ASU, he grew to love the school’s diverse training across anthropology’s many subdisciplines. But his time at the university proved life-changing in more ways than one.

“Without a doubt, the most impactful personal experience I had while at ASU was meeting Erin Younger on our first day of graduate school classes,” he said of his now wife. “We have been together ever since.”

A career that defines boundaries

Liebow’s path to a PhD was a meandering one. He took a four-year break to work for an urban planning firm that was helping to manage surging demand for public facilities — such as water, schools and transportation — in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

When he returned to his studies, he worked at the Phoenix Indian Center’s Urban Indian Law Project, a community legal services agency, and after graduation spent nearly three decades at the Battelle Memorial Institute’s Human Affairs Research Center, where he conducted research on the environment, public health and social policy.

photo of Liebow visiting Australia for research

Shortly after joining Battelle, Liebow visited Australia to study the cleanup efforts at a former British nuclear weapons test site (and aboriginal ancestral land) called Maralinga, which was relevant to his own work with historical tribal territories where the U.S. government manufactured and tested nuclear weapons. Photo courtesy of Ed Liebow

In 2012, this broad range of experiences opened the door to the opportunity of a lifetime — becoming the first trained anthropologist to serve as executive director of AAA.

Liebow credits his time at ASU, where he had the chance to explore the many subfields of anthropology, teach classes and participate in research, with preparing him for the position.

One of the greatest advantages anthropologists have, argues Liebow, is their ability to see how culture, society, economy, environment and a host of other factors are all interconnected. That type of big-picture thinking is important in successful business leadership and is in high demand from employers of all kinds.

Expanding the field’s influence in new and leading industries could actually help yield unexpected solutions to today’s most pressing issues, he says.

“From climate change and immigration policy to protection of cultural heritage resources and elimination of global health disparities, our job is to work so that the healthy, just and sustainable choices are the easiest ones to make.”

That’s why he’s encouraging the next generation of anthropologists to continue pushing the boundaries of their field.

“AAA is committed to ensuring the enduring legacy and impact of critical anthropological work — today and tomorrow,” Liebow said.

Under his leadership, this means expanding outreach to K-12 students and teachers; promoting innovative undergraduate teaching and learning; and supporting professional development for the growing number of anthropologists who work outside academia in businesses, government and nonprofits.

“I always recommend that whenever you approach employers, instead of thinking about how the organization can meet your needs, be thinking foremost about how you can contribute to that organization’s success,” he said. “I promise you that if the place that hires you is successful, you will be too.”

Mikala Kass

Editorial Communications Coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


image title

ASU Innovation Open awards ingenuity

February 3, 2019

Creative solutions for food waste, water conservation and physical therapy impress judges at 3rd annual ASU pitch competition

Katherine Sizov wanted to save the apples. So she invented a device to detect exactly when they’re ripe and ready to be sold — a technology that could save millions of apples from spoilage every year.

On Friday, she won $100,000 for her invention in the ASU Innovation Open pitch competition at Arizona State University. 

Sizov is founder and CEO of Strella Biotech and also a senior majoring in molecular biology and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. Her invention is a biosensor that’s placed on the walls of the warehouse rooms where apples are stored, where it detects levels of ethylene gas, produced as the fruit ripens. The sensors are already being used by apple-packing companies, and Sizov said the $100,000 prize, which was donated by Avnet, will allow her team to make more of the devices.

“I like making tech that’s hands-on, and I think that’s the future of the world,” said Sizov, who also won $10,000 in services donated by Roambotics. 

“Nature is smarter than us, and we can learn from it to do all sorts of awesome things.”

Kyle squires and Bill Amelio at the Innovation Open

Kyle Squires (left), dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and Avnet CEO Bill Amelio welcome everyone to the third annual ASU Innovation Open Final Demo Day on Friday at the Student Pavilion. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Strella Biotech was one of five teams in the final round of the ASU Innovation Open. They each won a $5,000 cash prize in the first round last fall from Zero Mass Water, one of the event sponsors and an ASU spinoff founded in 2015 by Cody Friesen, an associate professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The other four finalists were:

Soundskrit, which won second place and a $25,000 cash prize donated by ON Semiconductor. The company, founded by Sahil Gupta of McGill University, created a new kind of multidirectional microphone, which Gupta hopes to eventually sell to Apple for use in iPhones.

“Smartphones have evolved, but microphones haven’t,” Gupta told the judges. “The challenge is in shrinking the microphone, which decreases audio quality.

“But with a single microphone, we can listen in any direction without compromising on size, audio quality or direction.”

Infinite Cooling, a water-capture technology invented by a team of undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. CEO Maher Damak told the judges that their system, which has been installed on the MIT campus, could save power plants more than a million dollars a year and help them use less water. The team met last week with administrators at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant to discuss the technology. 

SoleMate Solutions, invented by students Surabhi Kalyan and Kristine Khieu from the University of California, San Diego. They created a shoe insole for people who are rehabilitating after orthopedic surgery. The medical device, which measures weight applied and provides real-time feedback, will undergo clinical trials this year. The goal is for the device to reduce recovery time and prevent complications.

Cloud Agronomics, a remote-sensing technology created by students at Brown University that’s intended to reduce food waste by better predicting crop diseases. Their algorithm measures the light refracted from crops captured on ultrahigh-resolution images taken from planes to detect crop diseases long before the human eye can see them. 

“The vision is for farmers to not wake up one morning and realize they lost their crops to a disease they can’t see but our sensors can,” said Jack Roswell, a mechanical engineering major at Brown and co-founder of the company.

This was the third ASU Innovation Open, and the first in which no teams from ASU made it to the finals. 

“That feels like it’s negative, but it’s actually positive because it’s evidence of where this competition is headed,” Friesen said. “We had a crazy level of competition this year.”

Innovation open presenters

Competition finalists Kristine Khieu (right) and Surabhi Kalyan of UC San Diego pitch their SoleMate Solutions, a smart-shoe insole, at the ASU Innovation Open Final Demo Day. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Sizov said she was inspired to invent the ethylene-detection device when she heard that two out of every five apples harvested are wasted due to spoilage, which mostly happens during packing and distribution.

“Fruit is stored for a long period of time. The apples you buy at grocery store this week could be over a year old,” she said in her pitch to the judges.

Strella Biotech tested its devices with an apple packer in Washington state. On Jan. 5, the sensors detected an ethylene spike in one of the storage rooms.

A woman speaks onstage

Katherine Sizov

“We told the client, ‘You should pull the fruit now.’ They were planning on pulling those apples in July,” she said. “We saved 4 million apples, which is really exciting.”

Two of the five finalist ventures were devoted to reducing food waste — a prime area for innovative entrepreneurial ideas, according to keynote speaker David Danielson, managing director of Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

“With food waste, there’s no silver bullet. It’s imperfect produce that’s thrown out, or spoilage on the way to the store or food left on your plate,” he said. “It’s day zero in this space.”

Other ASU Innovation Open sponsors include the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the Arizona Board of Regents, with additional support from the ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation program and the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

“The Phoenix metropolitan area is quickly becoming a technology and entrepreneurship hub, and at the Fulton Schools, we’re excited to be one of the catalysts of this wave of innovation and creativity,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Fulton Schools. 

“Through the ASU Innovation Open, we’re bolstering new ideas from ventures like Strella Biotech and the other competitors who are all on course to become the technology leaders of tomorrow.”

Top photo: Katherine Sizov (second from right) of the University of Pennsylvania poses with (from left) judge Cody Friesen and Avnet's MaryAnn Miller and Bill Amelio as well as Sparky after being named the grand-prize winner at the third annual ASU Innovation Open Final Demo Day on Friday at the Student Pavilion in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


ASU startup wins Arizona Innovation Challenge

January 25, 2019

Breezing, a spinout company that was the result of discoveries made at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, was recently named an Arizona Innovation Challenge winner by the Arizona Commerce Authority.

The startup, founded by NJ Tao, director of the Biodesign Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors, and Erica Forzani, a researcher in the center and an associate professor at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has developed a wearable device that offers precise assessments of a person’s resting metabolic rate using sensor technology based on research conducted at Biodesign. Xiaojun Xian and Francis Tsow, ASU researchers who aided in product development, rounded out the development team and were joined in 2018 by CEO Andrew Steele, a two-time previous founder and Silicon Valley veteran. Breezing delivers precise recordings of resting metabolic rates in real time. The next generation of products have been redesigned to be wearable rather than handheld. Image credit: Breezing Download Full Image

Breezing was one of 10 winners, selected from 20 finalists and over 100 applicants for the semiannual competition. Entrants in the competition are “promising early stage technology companies in high growth industries,” according to the Commerce Authority award announcement.

“This product can be a great fit for people who want to achieve a healthy weight scientifically and efficiently,” Tao said. “Obesity has become the greatest population health issue of our time, and our clinical studies have already proven that people lose more weight and adhere to healthier behavior when they have a clear picture of their metabolic data using Breezing.”

“Breezing is a wonderful example of a Biodesign scientist moving a discovery from the lab into the world,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “This type of impactful technology thrives in the boundary-breaking approach that we encourage at Biodesign.” 

Biological and electrical engineers, physicists, chemists, biochemists, materials science researchers and their students were all involved in Breezing’s research and development.

Winners of the Arizona Innovation Challenge receive up to $150,000 in grant funding to invest in their company’s growth. The prize money is released in stages based on reaching key milestones. Annually, the Commerce Authority distributes a total of $3 million in grants.

“I think it’s a great program,” Tao said. “It’s a great opportunity for networking, getting to know the community and investors.”

Each prize-winning startup is paired with an experienced entrepreneur-in-residence through the ACA’s Venture Ready mentorship program. The entrepreneurs-in-residence work with the companies for up to a year to guide them toward success before the companies can “graduate” from the program and earn full funding.

“The Innovation Challenge is a good vehicle for companies to get advice, exposure and capital at a level that would be difficult to get otherwise,” Steele said. “Together, those things made the program really valuable for us.”

Breezing is a consumer-friendly technology. It is the only metabolism tracker on the market today that provides users with the opportunity to view their data in real time on a mobile app. It relies on a precise technology for measuring metabolic rates, called indirect calorimetry. The technology measures a user’s resting metabolism with a simple 10-minute test, during which the user breathes normally while wearing the device over their mouth and nose. It is smaller than other metabolism trackers.

“Whether someone is in a structured weight loss program or is an elite athlete seeking to optimize performance, the Breezing technology provides precise, actionable metabolic data to help customize nutrition, lifestyle and exercise plans to achieve their specific goals,” Steele said.

The sensor technology is a chip that is the real genius behind the device. Tao and Forzani’s research team spent years shrinking and perfecting the chip. It works by sensing chemicals in the air and in human breath, while simultaneously measuring oxygen consumed and CO2 dispelled to give users personalized results.

“We got excellent feedback on our product from our customers,” Tao said. “Our first generation of products sold out. Now, our second generation of machines is designed to be even easier to use and compatible with more mobile devices.” 

The next generation of Breezing devices has been redesigned based on the user feedback and field data collected from its first generation device launched in 2013. Breezing says it plans a public announcement of its new product later in the first quarter of this year, with subsequent product availability currently slated for the second quarter.

Assistant science writer, Biodesign Institute

New Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator opens applications

January 16, 2019

The Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator, a collaboration between Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University that is designed specifically for medical device and health care technology companies, is now accepting applications.

The program, leveraging the resources and venture expertise of two innovative institutions, is designed for companies looking to take their business to the next level. Participants can expect to walk away from the program with personalized business development plans to collaborate with Mayo Clinic and ASU, as well as accelerate go-to-market and investment opportunities. New Mayo Clinic - ASU MedTech Accelerator launching in April Download Full Image

Dr. Steven Lester, M.D.,  chief medical officer of the Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator, says the goal is to help startups bridge the development gap.

"We can help the participants to enhance the clinical and commercial interest, and viability of their health care solution," said Lester, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. "Our hope is that the businesses both gain knowledge to best forge their path forward as well as use the brand of the program to mitigate the risk when seeking investors. Above all, we want to truly translate idealism into action and help to invent the health care of tomorrow."

Rick Hall, director of health innovation at ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the accelerator's co-managing partner, says this concept provides businesses rare access to the university's well-established startup network.

"The number of patents and amount of funding going to startups through the vehicles of ASU's Entrepreneurship + Innovation and Skysong Innovations is significant," Hall said. "This accelerator will allow outside health technology companies to benefit from the ASU support network, while also leveraging the extraordinary business development and research opportunities of Mayo Clinic."

Those participating will take part in an accelerator immersion April 22–May 3 at Mayo Clinic's Scottsdale campus. The remaining components of the accelerator program can be done remotely. In total, the accelerator will be six months for each cohort, with incentives offered to participants to stay and work in Arizona.

Similar accelerators on other Mayo Clinic campuses have been successful. This effort builds off those accomplishments and capitalizes on the dynamic and emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Arizona.

"Beyond our great weather and low cost of living, we have access to top-tier research faculty, world-class physicians and a pipeline of talent coming out of our academic programs. The Mayo-ASU alliance uniquely positions Arizona as an attractive location for companies to accelerate growth," Hall said.

Charlie Lewis, senior vice president of Venture Development at Skysong Innovations, says it's an exciting time for this industry and something ASU definitely wants to continue to be a part of.

"The med-tech space has entered into a new frontier of health care with the emergence of artificial intelligence, advanced techniques in engineering design and other technologies that have enabled personalized patient care never before imagined," Lewis said.

Businesses nationwide are encouraged to apply if they meet the criteria. Each company selected will be required to execute a participation agreement and pay $50,000 to join. 

Learn more about accelerator.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, College of Nursing and Health Innovation


ASU’s Biodesign Institute and Banner Research announce neuroscience scholars summer program

Undergrad and grad students are eligible; applications due by March 1

January 11, 2019

If understanding the inner workings of the brain is on your mind, now is the time to explore the Banner-ASU Neuroscience Scholars program. Top-achieving college undergraduate and graduate science students are eligible to apply for the paid eight-week training program. Applications must be received by March 1.

Students selected for the program will work side-by-side with some of the world’s most talented scientists, clinicians and researchers in an environment devoted to neuroscientific biomedical research and clinical care. Banner started the scholars program 16 years ago. Since then, more than 220 students have donned lab coats for a summer of science. Most of the students pursue degrees in science or medicine. The Biodesign Institute joined the partnership three years ago. Download Full Image

“The Banner-ASU Neuroscience Scholars program provides invaluable hands-on experiences in the lab or clinic that fuel the curiosity, creativity and talent of the young people who participate each year,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. “We greatly appreciate the investments which help our students to flourish year after year.”

Students will work on a research project full-time in a laboratory under the mentorship of a scientist from Banner Research or the Biodesign Institute.

Students will have the opportunity to select one of four research tracks for deeper study, including basic and translational neuroscience; computational image analysis; healthy aging research; and brain and body donation. Each research track is correlated to a participating training facility.

CJ Bruske, a 2018 Neuroscience Scholar program alumni and a University of Arizona Honors College graduate, said, “My ultimate goal in life is to leave the greatest impact on my community … whether that be discoveries in the lab that ensure the next generation does not suffer from debilitating diseases or impacting a single individual in a medical setting.”

“The need is greater than ever to work collaboratively in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease,” said Eric Reiman, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute executive director and University Professor of Neuroscience at ASU. “It is a true honor to educate and inspire the creative minds of students across the country. They’re working to find answers to some of the most challenging questions, then bring their passion home to other students and colleagues.”

Students will receive hands-on training, attend educational seminars, learn about career options, practice scientific writing, attend social-networking events and create a scientific poster to present the outcomes of their research at a concluding symposium.

Banner started the scholars program 16 years ago. Since then, more than 220 students have donned lab coats for a summer of science. Most of the students pursue degrees in science or medicine. The Biodesign Institute joined the partnership three years ago.

Scholars are expected to commit 35 to 40 hours per week to the program. A stipend of $125 per week, for a total of $1,000, will be provided upon successful completion of the program. The overall aim is to give scholars cutting-edge experience in biomedical and clinical research.

Past participants have gone on to achieve success and shared impressive accomplishments, including scientific abstract and manuscript publications, top national student rankings, acceptance into first-rate graduate and medical schools, and national awards and scholarships.

Shiv Shah, an ASU student in the 2018 program, said, “I am passionate about neuroscience because I am fascinated by the intricacies and circuitry of the brain. The fact that billions of neurons are communicating with one another and give us consciousness and the ability to think simply amazes me.”

Haidyn Bulen, an ASU student and alumni of the 2018 Neuroscience Scholar program, said, “I am passionate about neuroscience because the brain is the very core of what it means to be human. … Neuroscience requires innovative thinkers and problem solvers.”

The Neuroscience Scholars program is an extraordinary opportunity for high-achieving students to connect their coursework to real-world experiences that cannot be replicated in conventional settings. Last year philanthropic gifts provided critical funding to make this program possible for nearly a dozen students — however, more than 100 qualified students applied. Organizers are actively seeking additional resources to make the Neuroscience Scholars experience available to more students in 2019. Visit our program website to learn more about opportunities to support this outstanding program.  

For more information, eligibility requirements and application, visit Neurosciencescholars.org

Written by Dianne Price

ASU and Phoenix issue new call for ventures to innovate for waste prevention and diversion

January 4, 2019

Arizona State University, named the most innovative school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for four straight years, in collaboration with the city of Phoenix — named the top performing city overall by Governing and Living Cities — are calling for innovators and entrepreneurs to participate in the RISN Incubator, a diverse solutions business development and accelerator program. The application period is open now.

The RISN Incubator is a program within the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) and supports new-to-market ventures that focus on improvements in processing or utilization of waste as a raw material for new products or energy. Selected enterprises receive unique access to resources and support from ASU and Phoenix to develop their solutions that contribute to the regional and national development of a vibrant circular economy. The RISN Incubator is a business accelerator operated within the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service to drive a vibrant circular economy. The RISN Incubator, operated in partnership between ASU's Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service and Entrepreneurship + Innovation, works with the city of Phoenix and its public works department to drive a robust circular economy in Arizona and beyond. Download Full Image

“We are excited to engage a new cohort of innovators to build upon the impact of our initial 13 companies and help drive a stronger, more resilient economy that continues to explore new ways to close loops, create jobs and drive innovation,” said Alicia Marseille, director of the RISN Incubator. “In just two cohorts, RISN Incubator ventures have generated more than $4.1 million in revenue and created 43 jobs, proving the substantial impact these companies have made in just over one year.”

The RISN Incubator provides access to technical experts — including university faculty — for their advancement, workshops and training, business plan and growth strategy development, access to materials called feedstocks from Phoenix’s waste transfer station and a process for continuous evaluation and prequalification for funding opportunities with introductions to funders.

“By cultivating public-private partnerships to turn trash into new products, the Phoenix Public Works Department continues to work to increase our waste diversion rate and create economic impact in our city,” said Ginger Spencer, Phoenix Public Works director. “As inspiring as it is to see the new businesses take hold, it is even more inspiring to work with them to help us meet our waste diversion goals for 2020 and beyond.”

Startup concepts eligible for the incubator include, but are not limited to, conversion of solid waste into new material or energy; services that divert, reuse or recycle; and software applications and design services that focus on sustainability. The priority waste feedstocks that the successful ventures will have access to include plastics, batteries, carpeting and carpet foam, broken furniture, mattresses, textiles, food waste, compost and plastic film.

Thirteen ventures have completed their mentorship period within the incubator, including the following:

  • Renewlogy, developer of a proprietary chemical recycling process that allows plastic to be reversed back into its basic molecular structure, converting nonrecycled plastic waste into new valuable products such as high-value fuels. Renewlogy was a winner of the 2017 Arizona Innovation Open and the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open.
  • Hathority, which specializes in software integration and application development in order to make societal impacts such as reduce landfill waste, improve recycling and change customer behavior.
  • Recyclops, who has used mobile app technology to bring recycling and waste diversion through a sharing economy model to areas that otherwise would not have options aside from sending their trash to landfill. Both rural communities and high density multifamily residential complexes are often without recycling services.

“The team at ASU knows everyone in the who's who of the circular economy space,” said Ryan Smith, founder and CEO of Recyclops. “We have been astounded by the relationships that we've been able to build because of RISN and the lessons we've learned. It's truly been a life-changing experience for us and has had an enormous positive effect as we continue to push our business forward.”

This call for innovators and entrepreneurs is open until Jan. 31, with cohort finalists notified of their selection by Feb. 18.

The RISN Incubator is operated at ASU by the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service and ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation. For more information about the RISN Incubator including the application questions, visit RISNincubator.asu.edu.

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


Anonymous donor steps up to the plate to fund ASU foodpreneur program

December 21, 2018

With new funding and a new coordinator, Prepped — a free, early-stage food business incubator at Arizona State University — is accepting applications for its sixth cohort to begin in spring 2019.

The program is a collaboration from the office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation with additional support from the College of Health Solutions. Prepped participants at the fall showcase Prepped, a free, early-stage food business incubator at Arizona State University, is accepting applications for its sixth cohort to begin in spring 2019. Download Full Image

The new donors chose to remain anonymous, as they wanted the impact of their gift to be the focus.

“This couple was inspired by the accomplishments of the entrepreneurs over the past couple of years and they wanted to help ensure future success, so they’ve committed to funding Prepped for the next two years. We are incredibly grateful to them for their generosity,” said Rick Hall, director of health innovation programs and clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

In addition to providing funding to keep the program free for the business owners and to reimburse costs toward food-safety training and permits, the significant gift also allowed for a new program coordinator position.

Natalie Morris was recently hired for the job, bringing a wealth of experience to the role. Her academic background is in food culture, communications and culinary arts. She’s also a food entrepreneur herself and has worked in nutrition, academia and grassroots nonprofits over the past 12 years.

“Natalie is a perfect fit to coordinate the efforts of Prepped. She has worked in the local food ecosystem for several years and has developed a strong network in the community. Natalie has a passion for empowering food entrepreneurs and is also very interested in sustainability, an important issue that she is infusing into the curriculum,” Hall said.

Morris says Prepped essentially brings all of her interests and backgrounds together, helping small food-based businesses achieve liftoff and doing so in an inspiring academic setting.

One of her favorite aspects of the program and also the most rewarding is getting to work alongside the female entrepreneurs who participate.

“I'm just back here putting the pieces together each week; they're the ones who are managing their businesses in addition to being mothers, caretakers, bill-payers and everything else at all times. I love that I have the opportunity to contribute to making their lives even the tiniest bit more manageable and that Prepped has been designed to give them the tools to run businesses efficiently,” said Morris.

Her vision is to build on the momentum and achievements of previous cohorts while introducing new elements that support the sustained success of each of the participants.

“When we are thinking about the curriculum, the instructors or mentors, or our community partners, we are always thinking about how these pieces of the puzzle will be of value for everyone. One such example I'm proud to announce is that we've collaborated with the FoodLab at ASU's School of Sustainability to integrate more corporate sustainability techniques into the weekly lessons and, in looking ahead, having our own commercial kitchen (a priority need for food businesses) is on our radar,” Morris said.

Originally founded in 2016 by Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU, Prepped’s growth and the community it has created are two things she is incredibly proud of.

“When we started Prepped just over two years ago, we didn’t anticipate just how impactful the program would be. We have been able to support dozens of entrepreneurs in the scaling up of their food-based businesses, accelerating the growth of revenues exponentially, and helping create dozens of jobs. And perhaps most importantly, fostering a community where even long after participants have completed the program, they still come together around food, culture and helping each other in any way they can,” Choi said.

To date, 63 businesses have been prepped and, as Choi said, the supportive community they’ve built continues as they get ready to welcome the next cohort.

Devereaux Jackson from Q-Tsie was in one of the early cohorts and says the experience exceeded expectations and continues to even now.

“This is abundance. I am continually in awe at the wealth of industry knowledge and support that Prepped has made available to us. I am immensely grateful,” Jackson said.

For anyone on the fence about applying, Morris says if you fit the eligibility, don’t let fear stand in your way. Instead, just go for it.

The program runs each fall and spring with applications for the next cohort open now. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.

For eligibility and additional program information, visit the Prepped website: https://nursingandhealth.asu.edu/prepped.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, College of Nursing and Health Innovation


Five student ventures progress to compete for $100,000 prize in 2019 ASU Innovation Open

December 19, 2018

Last Friday, five student-led teams each won $5,000 and moved one step closer to potentially earning the $100,000 grand prize to fund their startups in the ASU Innovation Open pitch competition.

Excitement and expectation reverberated throughout the presentation room at ASU’s SkySong campus as the early-stage entrepreneurs representing the top 15 ventures presented five-minute pitches to peers and a panel of judges made up of Phoenix-area business leaders and entrepreneurs. ASU Innovation Open finalists Five teams representing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of California, San Diego; McGill University; University of Pennsylvania; and Brown University have progressed to the finals for the 2019 ASU Innovation Open. These teams will pitch their ventures for the chance to win $100,000 to help fund their startups. Download Full Image

The ASU Innovation Open, which is in its third year, invites student-led, multidisciplinary teams of collegiate startup founders who are harnessing the power of entrepreneurship to tackle the world’s most challenging problems.

Selected from dozens of applications submitted from around the world, the student ventures ranged from biotech startups developing technology to optimize personalized health to one company’s out-of-this-world prototype aiming to remove and reduce space debris.

The day included advice and feedback from Todd Davis, CEO and co-founder of LifeLock, a Tempe-based company that has been safeguarding users against identity theft since 2005, and a question-and-answer session from a panel of past ASU Innovation Open winners and competitors.

Five finalists were chosen to receive a $5,000 cash prize from Zero Mass Water, an Arizona State University spinoff founded in 2015 by ASU Associate Professor Cody Friesen.

“Zero Mass Water gives this gift of $25,000 a year because while we’re a startup — although a late-stage startup — it’s never too early to begin paying forward and building an ecosystem of entrepreneurship,” said Friesen. “We got this massive leg up because of the existence of ASU and being competitive within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Thinking about how we can enable other entrepreneurs to get that leg up to go faster is what we were thinking about when we founded this competition and now why we fund the semifinals.”

Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering — another of the event’s sponsors — welcomed students and guests. Using Zero Mass Water as an example, he encouraged the young entrepreneurs to strive to make a lasting impact in their communities.

“This is when it’s working — a company out in the community, employing engineers, creating value and closing the loop by giving back. And that’s what we want you to be able to do in your communities,” said Squires. “Get to the point where you are not only having individual success and advancing your venture and the networks you’re creating, but that you can also eventually give back. Once that cycle starts to work, it feeds on and repeats itself, and then the entire community is winning.”

Avnet’s ongoing partnership with ASU includes supporting aspiring entrepreneurs to advance their innovations and is the reason the company has supported and sponsored the competition since its inception.  

"For the third year in a row, we’ve seen incredible innovation, imagination and sophistication from these young entrepreneurs," said Melissa Gray, vice president of Corporate Affairs for Avnet. "The competition keeps getting better and better, and it’s very exciting to watch that progression. The types of technology solutions presented today take on some of the world’s toughest challenges underscoring our own guiding mantra to ‘reach further’ and make a difference." 

The five ventures selected to progress to the ASU Innovation Open finals are: 

  • Cloud Agronomics, presented by Jack Roswell and Oleksiy Zhuk from Brown University, is an aerial imaging and data analytics venture in the agri-tech sector that is dedicated to reducing food waste. The company collects ultra-high-definition images taken from manned aircraft to scout evidence of crop disease and advise farmers to act.
  • Infinite Cooling, presented by Maher Damak from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has technology to capture large amounts of pure water from the evaporative losses of cooling towers in power plants. Their cooling apparatus has already been installed at a power plant on the MIT campus, and other industry leaders are looking to incorporate their ideas to recycle water for reuse in their cooling systems.
  • SoleMate Solutions, presented by Surabhi Kalyan and Kristine Khieu from the University of California, San Diego, makes a smart-shoe insole that optimizes lower-extremity rehabilitation by measuring weight applied and providing real-time feedback. The smart sole can improve recovery time and help prevent serious complications that may occur after a patient is discharged.
  • Soundskrit, presented by Sahil Gupta from McGill University, is leveraging years of research in biomimetic microphone design to develop multi-directional Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) microphones that will significantly improve audio capture. This velocity microphone technology will dynamically track and listen to multiple inputs and improves years of stagnant technology in audio capture.
  • Strella Biotechnology, presented by Katherine Sizov from the University of Pennsylvania, makes biosensing platforms that measure fruit ripeness by measuring ethylene gas production and provide actionable data to packers and distributors to reduce food waste and increase fruit quality. The technology is already in use by apple packers in Washington state and Pennsylvania.

In February, the five teams will compete for $100,000, $25,000 and $10,000 prizes to help fund their ventures. Avnet, the title sponsor for the event, will supply the grand prize, while ON Semiconductor and Roambotics will fund the second- and third-place awards, respectively. The student ventures will be judged on multiple aspects of their business plan and product development, including market research, prototypes and website development.

The five-person judging panel included representatives from several of the event’s sponsors: Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass Water; Therese Bassett, chief strategy, innovation and M&A officer at Avnet; Richard Diaz, global account director at ON Semiconductor; Scott Menor, CEO of Roambotics; and Gabriel Ramirez, senior director of business development at Sitewire.  

Other ASU Innovation Open sponsors include the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the Arizona Board of Regents, with additional support from the ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation program and the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Named the most innovative university in the United States for the fourth consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report, Arizona State University is uniquely positioned to co-host the growing competition, which embodies ASU’s commitment to valuing entrepreneurship in all of its forms.

For more information on the ASUio, visit winasu.io

Lanelle Strawder

Content Manager, Communications, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Venture Devils program helps ASU-affiliated startups soar

December 17, 2018

Software that speeds up speech therapy. A swimwear line for all body shapes. A device that lets patients do physical therapy at home. These were just a few of the startups pitched by student and community entrepreneurs during Demo Day, the biannual showcase for top Arizona State University-affiliated ventures to deliver investor-style pitches as they compete for nearly $200,000 in funding and support.

These teams were part of Venture Devils, a program in ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I) that aims to engage, mentor and fund founders who are actively working toward the development of a venture, whether for-profit, low-profit or nonprofit. Help In Hand App's Emerald Ochonogor celebrates her $1,000 eSeed award following the Venture Devils Demo Day awards ceremony at 1951 @ SkySong, Nov. 30, 2018. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

As part of Venture Devils, founders may receive direct access to funding opportunities and venture development spaces such as 1951 @ SkySong. Named for the year Scottsdale was incorporated, 1951 @ SkySong is a coworking space that combines vibrant 1950s decor with the latest collaboration and communication technologies.

“While our support for entrepreneurs isn’t based on place-based strategies, we have found that spaces like 1951 are powerful in bringing people together, whether for events like Demo Days or community workshops, or for the day-to-day collisions that happen and are driven by the people who come here to work on their individual ventures, collectively,” said Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU.

“ASU is proud to be fostering an environment that enables others to be even more successful than they could be on their own,” Choi said.


ASU Venture Devils have access to coworking space, such as 1951 @ SkySong. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

A recent success emerging from 1951 @ SkySong is Sensagrate, a five-person startup that is developing an infrastructure-to-vehicle communication platform that provides data for human-driven and autonomous vehicles to foster safer interaction. Sensagrate was among the teams that presented at Demo Day.

“Being a part of Venture Devils and having a coworking space allowed us to create a space where we connect with entrepreneurs and receive valuable feedback and knowledge sharing through our mentors to help us grow our venture,” said Darryl Keeton, Sensagrate founder and president.

Sensagrate recently created the Safer and Smarter Arizona Roadway Initiative to build more efficient roadways by fostering connected and automated vehicle (CAV) development and deployment corridors in southern Arizona. The project recently won first place at the 2018 Smart Infrastructure Challenge and will receive up to $10 million in funding.

Winning the challenge “was pretty breathtaking,” Keeton said. “If you put your mind to something knowing you’re working to save lives, people will actually gravitate toward that and be supportive.”

daryl keeton

Darryl Keeton, founder and president of Sensagrate, a startup that participated in ASU's Venture Devils program. Sensagrate's Safer and Smarter Arizona Roadway Initiative recently won up to $10 million in funding at the 2018 Smart Infrastructure Challenge.

The Venture Devils program is available to new or existing startup teams that have at least one current ASU student as a key founder, who can be either an undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral or part-time student enrolled in any ASU in-person or online program or course. Greg Duffley, an ASU senior majoring in business administration, is a cofounder and software engineer for Sensagrate.

Venture Devils is also open to ASU faculty and staff founders and to community-based entrepreneurs affiliated with an ASU community-focused venture development program.

Founders must apply to become Venture Devils, and applications are processed five times a year. Once selected, startups are matched with a dedicated venture mentor and receive exclusive access to opportunities to assist in their venture concepts.

So what’s next for Sensagrate? The company plans to expand and build a relationship with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s new Institute for Automatic Mobility. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, chief research and innovation officer and executive vice president of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise, will be the institute’s senior science adviser.

Keeton credits the Venture Devils program with helping them achieve their goals.

“One day, we hope to give back and support ASU Knowledge Enterprise in their startup and entrepreneur initiatives,” he said.

Want to become a Venture Devil? The next round of applications is due Dec. 31. Apply now.

Jean Clare Sarmiento

Communications Specialist , Biodesign Institute