10:44 AM

University awards for innovation given to faculty, student

Caroline Whitacre with Jacob Mendlovic, Yuan Zheng and Lise Worthen-Chaudhari
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

An invention to improve the performance of robots, a computer program that uses motion capture technology to support physical rehabilitation and an electronic probe that helps farmers improve their crops – these innovative ideas were award winners at The Ohio State University State of Research address Wednesday.

Yuan Zheng, professor of electrical and computer engineering, was named the 2016 Innovator of the Year by the Office of Research. Zheng has been at Ohio State since 1989 and is a leader in the field of robotics research. He was awarded based on his invention of a new type of gear technology that should reduce the cost of robotics and make robots last longer.

“This award to me is the most important award I have received,” Zheng said. “If the potential is realized, my invention could be used to replace (technology) primarily from Japan. That would be very significant to the state of Ohio and to the country.”

Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, research assistant professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was awarded the 2016 Early Career Innovator of the Year award. Worthen-Chaudhari is associate director of the Human Motion Analysis and Recovery Laboratory and is both a former professional dancer and a biomechanist.

Worthen-Chaudhari’s innovation is an interactive computer program that enhances physical therapy. She said the award shows how collaboration between different disciplines can lead to great ideas.

“This recognition validates the arts; it certainly validates dance and innovation between the fields,” she said.

The Student Innovator of the Year award went to Jacob Mendlovic, a recent Ohio State honors graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. Mendlovic helped invent a probe that can take electrochemical images of underground plants and roots. It could help farmers make better choices before planting crops or help environmental investigators detect chemicals near hydraulic fracturing sites.

Mendlovic said he has always been encouraged to push himself at Ohio State.

“I’ve really felt like anything I’ve wanted to do, Ohio State made that possible. Whatever you want to do, there’s someone to help you along that path,” he said.

The awards are meant to recognize and reward research creativity and entrepreneurship. Zheng and Worthen-Chaudhari have already licensed their technology for commercial use.

Caroline Whitacre, senior vice president for research, delivered the State of Research address. Whitacre said because of the changing landscape of research funding, finding new ways to collaborate was increasingly important.

“The path forward will require exploring uncommon territory to create those new and unexpected collaborations and partnerships,” Whitacre said.