An assistant physics professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and an alumnus who now serves as an intellectual property attorney will share the 2012 Kalenian Award, the university's top prize recognizing commercialization potential for a given invention.
Izabela Stroe, the physics professor, won for an early detection device she is developing for Alzheimer's Disease patients, while Michael T. Abramson (WPI '05) was recognized for a product that will identify odorless, colorless, and tasteless so-called "date-rape drugs" that are surreptitiously slipped in one's drink. The pair will each receive $12,500 to help develop their inventions.
WPI officials also recognized Kevin Harrington, (WPI '10), who received $5,000 in in-kind legal services from Boston-based intellectual property law firm Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., for development of a STEM education kit (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for young learners.
The Kalenian Award, established in 2006 by Alba Kalenian in memory of her late husband, inventor Aram Kalenian ('33), is given on a competitive basis and supports innovative ideas or the development of commercial products. The 2012 award was presented by their son, Paul Kalenian, during a recent ceremony at Alden Memorial.
Gina Betti, associate director of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at WPI, who manages the Kalenian competition, noted it was a very competitive contest with 26 applicants vying for the prize.
"We had many good candidates who rose to the top this year, making the final decision even more difficult," said Betti. "In the end, the three-judge panel saw significant commercialization value with these winners."
Stroe is in the process of developing technology that is able to detect the proteins responsible for triggering Alzheimer's Disease. Every 68 seconds, she noted, another person in the United States develops Alzheimer's. "I am driven in my research by both scientific curiosity and the desire to contribute to people's lives," said Stroe.
"At the same time, I believe that for us scientists, recognition carries with it a good deal of responsibility due to the trust and the hope that our community places in our work," added Stroe. "I am humbled and honored to be entrusted with such responsibility."
Stroe, who has been on the WPI faculty for four years, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Bucharest in Romania and her PhD from Clark University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Abramson, founder of DrinkSavvy, has developed an early warning system for drug-facilitated sexual assault/rape. The products look and function just like normal drinkware – including cups, glasses, straws, stirrers , bottles and cans– except that they will immediately and effortlessly change color to alert the user if a rape drug is slipped into their drink.
"I'm truly overwhelmed with pride, excitement, and appreciation for receiving the award," said Abramson. "I didn’t just receive an award; it's more than that. I received the validation that every solo inventor/entrepreneur seeks, which is to reassure them that they are on the correct path."
Abramson received his bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering from WPI and his law degree from University of New Hampshire School of Law. He is an IP attorney at Holland & Knight in Boston.
Harrington is striving to create a complete open-hardware, educational package to teach STEM topics to students from high school to college. He also received $5,000 for in-kind legal services and $5,000 in prize money during the Kalenian award ceremony in 2009.
"I am honored to be recognized again this year," said Harrington. "We have been working steadily since 2008 to give access to STEM education to students across the country, and recognition from an award like this helps to bring that dream to reality."
Harrington received a bachelor's degree in robotics from WPI. He is a co-founder of Neuron Robotics in Worcester and a co-inventor of the Bowler Communications System.