A wide range of innovation – from a life sciences start up to the latest in media technology – was recognized Monday (Sept. 22) by West Virginia University during the second annual Innovation Awards.

The awards honor contributions to innovation and impact on society through commercialization of ideas. For these awards, innovation includes all forms of discovery, creation, and production of inventive and progressive ideas, methods, and products that promote society’s growth.

Taura Barr, Richard Giersch, Ashley Petrone and Connie Tennant received the Early Career Innovator Award; Dana Coester received the Established Career Innovator Award; James Smith received the Presidential Innovation Service Award; and Justin Chambers received the Student Innovator Award.

“At West Virginia University we are developing innovative solutions to difficult problems,” President Gordon Gee said. “These awards are special because they recognize the application of this work to a broad range of commercial products and methods that provide tremendous value to society.”

The honorees were chosen from among 43 faculty, administrators, staff and students who were nominated for the awards. Award winners received a commemorative plaque and $5,000 toward their innovation efforts.

The Student Innovator Award is a new award that recognizes an undergraduate or graduate student who has been innovative or entrepreneurial while enrolled at WVU.

“Our students are learning about resources and real-world skills that are necessary for success,” said Fred King, vice president for research. “This new award allows us to recognize their ingenuity, creativity and enthusiasm as they move their innovations into the marketplace.

Keynote speaker Wes Bush, chairman and chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman Corporation, congratulated WVU on nurturing the human mind and human spirit that make innovation come to life. He continued by saying that he was proud of the excellence and spirit of diverse innovation that the University fosters. Bush is a West Virginia native and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Early Career Innovator Award
The team from startup life sciences company CereDx developed and marketed a diagnostic tool for stroke detection that offers medical providers and emergency personnel an unbiased, quick and accurate diagnosis of ischemic stroke (clots) and prediction of stroke symptoms.

Taura Barr, assistant professor in the School of Nursing in WVU’s Health Sciences Center is the founder and chief scientific officer of CereDx. Barr, a native West Virginian, also holds faculty appointments in the Center for Neuroscience and the Center for Basic & Translational Stroke Research. She was given the first wet laboratory in the School of Nursing and has forged new interdisciplinary and cross-institution research collaborations.

Richard Giersch, chief executive officer of CereDx, is helping the company grow from its formative stages in order to bring the life-changing technology to market. He is working to attract international experts in genomics and stroke, form a Community Advisory Board and initiate licensing discussions.

Additionally, Richard and Taura have been sharing their knowledge and experiences with WVU faculty members who are in the startup process.

Connie Tennant, research coordinator, supports the Barr Laboratory and the Stroke Center, and Ashley Petrone, Neuroscience graduate student, supports the Barr Laboratory.


Established Career Innovator Award
Dana Coester, assistant professor in the Reed College of Media and creative director for the Alexis and Jim Pugh Media Innovation Lab, has been instrumental in cultivating the culture and practice of innovation across campus.

She helped design the lab, an open, flexible environment that provides access to the latest media technology and fosters creativity, ideation and product development. It serves as an incubator for new-media applications, platforms and strategies. She also drafted an Innovator-in-Residence program designed to foster a co-innovation culture between students, industry and community.

Coester leads Mobile Main Street, the first technology-transfer project undertaken by the College of Media. The open-source publishing platform engages small organizations, businesses and media in mobile app development and marketing to help fuel economic development in local communities.


Presidential Innovation Service Award
James Smith, director of the WVU Center for Industrial Research Applications in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, holds more than 30 United States patents (with an additional 28 patents pending) and numerous foreign patents on mechanical-, medical- and energy-related technologies.

He formed a new course for STEM-related majors on enterprise development and entrepreneurship. He is also working on a new STEM offering on the legal and developmental aspects of resource and technology management. He has assisted in a one-on-one mentoring program for students and employees to help develop professionals that will be needed to take technologies to the marketplace.

During the last two decades Smith was responsible for the creation of more than a dozen new corporate entities. In the past year, he has helped form six new companies, most of which have his former mentees at the helm.


Student Innovator Award
Justin Chambers, a direct track Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering and NanoSAFE Graduate Fellow, is the founder of two companies and a partner in two others.

One of the companies he founded, WINDPAX, specializes in the development of energy-producing and energy-storage devices that could be used for recreational or public health purposes. The company currently has a patent pending. He has another patent pending for a device that assists lacrosse players’ in stringing and restringing a lacrosse head.

Chambers, a native of Glen Dale, is also engaged in advanced research in nanotechnologies. He provides assistance with a novel nanoparticle aerosol generator for the Nurkiewicz Toxicology Research Lab in WVU’s Center for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences.

“Innovation and creativity are part of the entrepreneurial culture that we want to permeate our campus,” said King. “These awards not only recognize great work, but inspire others to do the same.”

A committee of judges, internal and external to the University, chose the honorees. The judging criteria were based on recognition of excellence in applied innovation through the quality and status of project development; impact on society; contribution to University innovation, commercialization or entrepreneurship; and use of University resources.