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April 11, 2022

2022 Innovation Celebration

Each year, the MSU Innovation Celebration honors Michigan State University researchers who reported an invention, licensed a technology or were awarded patents during the academic year. The awards recognize outstanding achievements in technology transfer and commercialization, corporate engagement, and sponsored research.

Hosted by the MSU Innovation Center, this year marks the 12th annual event. To register to attend this year’s celebration from 4 to 6:30 p.m. April 18 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, visit here.

Innovation Celebration Awardees 



Tech Transfer Achievement Award: Richard Lunt, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science in MSU’s College of Engineering, has been researching solar energy which is being implemented all around campus. Lunt is also the co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy Inc., a company commercializing transparent solar cells for windows and other surfaces. “What we do is demanding. At times, it can be all-consuming,” Lunt said. “It’s important to take a step back, take a break and do fun things together to build our team dynamics. When you have researchers who are supported, it helps everyone perform at a higher level.”



Innovator of the Year Award: Jetze Tepe, a professor in MSU’s Department of Chemistry, is researching the synthesis of natural products and medicinal chemistry. “These were undruggable proteins,” Tepe said. “It’s an area people have tried to target for decades, and they haven’t been able to do that with small molecules. We thought taking a completely different approach would be interesting to investigate, and that seemed to work.” Tepe and his students founded Portera Therapeutics in November 2021.



Innovation of the Year Award: Madonna Benjamin, DVM, MS, developed SIM (Sows in Motion) a technology capable of creating 3D scans of animals, while they are moving within the barn, to provide individual assessments for lameness and body condition. Her passion for the health and wellness of animals fueled her research leading her to create her product. “I tell my sons, students and anyone willing to listen: You can criticize an industry, or you can become part of the solution,” Benjamin said. “The former is less work, but the latter is rewarding.” With help from the Innovation Center as well as Red Cedar Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the MSU Foundation, Motion Grazer AI was launched in 2020. The research team of Daniel Morris, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michael Lavagnino, Ph.D., academic specialist in the College of Engineering, and Steven Yik, MS, will also be recognized for this Innovation Award.





Corporate Connector Award: Matt Daum, director of MSU School of Packaging, has held a relationship with both HP and MSU to bring his experience into the packaging world. “You never know going into those conversations where or how people want to connect, so I don’t try to presume what it’s going to be,” Daum said. “Even when I’m making a connection that stays on a platonic level, it may mean something more to another connection I have. I’m a huge believer in connecting not just for yourself but to help others in the same ecosystem. I like all of it.”


2022 Faculty Exhibitors


Matt Grieshop, Mark Ledebuhr, Kirby Adams, Nick Tipper
Department of Entomology
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Z-system Solid Set
Grieshop, Ledebuhr, Adams and Tipper are the creators of the Z-system solid-set canopy spray system. This system is an innovative way to spray trellised fruit crops and greenhouse plants. The system is set up permanently above the crops and delivers spray liquids throughout the crop area in liquid lines separate form compressed air lines. The Z-system provides more effective utilization of air, pesticides, water, and power than competing solid set systems.

Eric Olson
Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences
College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences
Winter Wheat
Olson is the director of the MSU Wheat Breeding and Genetics program which focuses on the development of red and white soft winter wheat varieties. Olson’s in-depth trialing and testing process results in released red and white soft winter wheat varieties that are well-suited for regional soft winter wheat production. The wheat varieties are disease-resistant and are grown to produce high-quality flour used for cookie, cake, and cracker production.

Art Weber, Wen Li
Department of Physiology and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
College of Natural Science and College of Engineering
IOP Sensor
Weber and Li’s technology provides glaucoma specialists with the data needed to deliver treatment to patients with potential dysregulation of their intraocular pressure. Their unique sensor design incorporates a passive strain sensor and antenna in a single coil configuration embedded in a softy contact lens. Weber and Li’s technology can be pivotal in diagnosing and monitoring Glaucoma, a major cause of blindness.

Qi Hua Fan
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
College of Engineering
Non-Uniform Electric Field Devices
Fan and his team have been using non-uniform electric fields for a variety of useful purposes and have been able to create a device that generates a strong electric field. The device can be used to remove PFAS from water and also enhance condensation of water to improve performance of dehumidifiers.

Richard Lunt
Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences
College of Engineering
Solar Energy Capture
Lunt created a photovoltaic material that allows for the transmission of visible light while converting non-visible light into electricity. The transparent solar cells have applications on any window while still serving its normal purpose and being able to generate power. Lunt is also the co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy Inc., a company working to commercialize the transparent solar cells.

Weiyi Lu
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering
Recoverable Liquid Nanofoam Energy Absorbers
Lu’s technology involves tiny nanosized porous material dispersed in a non-hazardous liquid that can absorb energy from impacts. The system can be tailored to absorb low or high impacts and allow repeated impacts without the loss of performance. Potential applications of the absorbers include protective gear, helmets, and military equipment.

Assaf Gilad
Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science, Department of Radiology and Department of Neuroscience
College of Engineering, College of Human Medicine and College of Natural Science
Gilad’s technology is a recombinant protein that can bind to rare earth elements while giving off green light in the process. GLAMOUR can be used to detect as a rapid onsite detection method and can also be used to remove and then recover the rare earth elements for further use.

Younsuk Dong
Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
College of Engineering
Dong has created an agricultural monitoring system that uses soil and leaf moisture data to help farmers determine when to water and how much water to add to their crops. This technology helps reduce water consumption, increase farm productivity and reduce plant disease.

Cheryl Eshbaugh
MSU Extension
Farm Stress Curriculum
Eshbaugh and MSU Extension have developed two agriculture-specific mental health literacy programs. Because of the success, Cooperative Extension in other states have requested to be trained to offer the two programs. In-person training and online training continues and 23 states have sent staff through facilitator training. This curriculum hopes to prevent great amounts of stress on farmers and teaches them how to combat and deal with pressure.

Bahar Aliakbarian
Axia Institute
Food Waste Biorefinery
Aliakbarian and her team have optimized the extraction and encapsulation of antioxidants from cherry pits and characterized their antioxidant activity using colorimetric methods. This is the first time a food byproduct has been used for cosmetic applications. Aliakbarian’s findings can be utilized in cosmeceuticals with the potential to protect skin from inflammation injury triggered by environmental stress.

Brian Winn, Matt Rudd, Will Jeffery
Department of Media Information
College of Communications Arts and Sciences
Will Winn Games Inc.
Plunder Panic
Winn, Rudd and Jeffery have created a new action-arcade video game, Plunder Panic. Two crews battle to take over one another’s ships, the first one to successfully take over the other team wins! The game is currently offered on platforms like STEAM and will be available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox in Q2 of 2022.

Patrick Kwon, Haseung Chung, Ken Foster
College of Engineering
Kwon, Chung and Foster have created 3DFoundri, Inc., and East Lansing start-up dedicated to developing advanced metal manufacturing technologies. Their technologies will enable cost reductions and increase part complexities. 3DFoundri is also working on an advanced 3D printing technology that will provide complex 3D metal parts over 10X faster than conventional printing technologies.

John McIntyre, Madonna Benjamin, Daniel Morris, Michael Lavagnino, Steven Yik
College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Engineering
Motion Grazer AI
McIntyre, Benjamin, Morris, Lavagnino and Yik have created an artificial intelligence that can help farmers analyze pig shape and gait in conjunction with tracking joint location. Motion Grazer AI analyses will be used to predict lameness and body condition of female breeding pigs (sows). This technology will help aid the breeding process of sows.

This story originally ran on the Innovation Center website.


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