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Engineering doctoral student Jen-Yu Huang, M.S. ’18, one of this year’s cohort of Commercialization Fellows, is exploring the commercial viability of a light processing technique to create programmable mesoporous materials for microfluidic devices.

Commercialization fellows set sights on tech solutions

Five students will examine the business prospects for a diverse array of Cornell technologies – including a cryptocurrency model, spine treatment, computer vision algorithm, and materials for high-powered electronics and microfluidic devices – as the newest class of commercialization fellows.

The fellows, all engineering doctoral students, will spend a fully funded semester and summer exploring the commercial viability of their respective technologies. From intellectual property management to supply chains, the fellowship offers a deep and personalized experience in learning what’s needed to bring products to market.

The 2019 fellows and their technologies are:

Jake Gemerek, M.S. ’19, sensor control for autonomous perception – a control algorithm for camera networks that can be used to autonomously gather information, such as tracking a person through a crowd, detecting dangerous situations on a construction site, discovering optimal locations to place advertisements and monitoring animal migrations to protect endangered species.

Austin Hickman, aluminum nitride-based power transistor – a transistor that can amplify signals above 100 gigahertz, which is critical for fast data transmission in next-generation (6G) wireless communication systems, as well as in self-driving cars that must map their surroundings in real time. This new level of performance is enabled by the thermal and electrical advantages of aluminum nitride over other materials, such as silicon and gallium nitride.

Jen-Yu Huang, M.S. ’18, light-patternable porous material in microfluidic devices – a light processing technique to create programmable mesoporous materials – materials with precise patterns of pores – that can be integrated into medical devices for bioseparation and point-of-care diagnostics. Potential applications include creating a device to purify drugs and a device to detect rare cells.

Ariah Klages-Mundt, designing decentralized finance – a platform to test, simulate and design stablecoins – digital cryptocurrencies designed to hold stable trading value. In addition, Klages-Mundt has developed a fundamentally new stablecoin design that involves buffered responses to extreme events such as market fluctuations.

Stephen Sloan, M.S. ’18, injectable intervertebral disc treatment – a high-density collagen gel that can be injected into a patient with spinal cord and nerve root compression due to intervertebral disc degeneration. The gel is engineered to prevent reherniation and promote tissue healing following a procedure that often causes complications after the removal of diseased tissue.

David Erickson, associate dean for research and graduate studies at Cornell Engineering, said it’s been exciting to see the visibility of the program – now in its fourth year – grow along with the college’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“What we’ve seen over the course of the fellowship is a greater breadth in both the types of technologies that are being explored and the students that are engaging in the program,” Erickson said.

Fellowship lead instructor Tom Schryver ’93, MBA ’02, executive director of the Center for Regional Economic Advancement and a visiting lecturer at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, said the program has been “a great catalyst for growing awareness and education around commercialization across campus – not just for the fellows each year, but for teams of MBAs and other students they interact with as they undertake their market assessments.”

A new feature of the fellowship is the incorporation of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps), which has the same goal of exploring the market potential of new technologies and connects university faculty and students with resources for pursuing the next step toward commercialization. NSF I-Corps provides the fellows with training to do customer discovery interviews that test hypotheses about the market potential of their technologies, as well as funding to conduct those interviews across the U.S.

Syl Kacapyr is public relations and content manager for the College of Engineering.

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Jeff Tyson