Three West Virginia University faculty members who exemplify the spirit of innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship were recently with the University’s inaugural Innovation Awards.

Jonathan Boyd, assistant professor of chemistry, received the Early Career Innovator award; David Graham, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, the Established Career Innovator award; and Carl Irwin, division director at the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy, the Presidential Innovation award. They were chosen from among 40 nominees. Each received a commemorative plaque and $5,000 toward their innovation efforts during a Sept. 17 Innovation Awards Ceremony Sept. 17 attended by about 100 faculty, staff and supporters.

“Promoting research and innovation is a strategic goal for the university and a vital part of our land-grant mission,” President Jim Clements said. “These awards help recognize some of the incredible faculty, staff and students at West Virginia University who have excelled at turning their curiosity into real discoveries that will have a positive impact on society.”

Keynote speaker Chris Mustain, vice president at the Council on Competitiveness, congratulated WVU for advancing the importance of innovation to the economy and society. WVU recently joined the council, a non-partisan non-governmental organization of CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders that works to ensure U.S. prosperity.

Boyd investigates how cells adapt and survive exposure to toxic chemicals, then incorporates these biological strategies learned from nature into novel security measures for information network systems and software applications.

The technology has the potential to protect a variety of networks ranging from high security mobile platforms used by the Department of Defense to the infrastructure on which society relies such as water treatment plants, oil pipelines and energy grids. He has received support from Raytheon Missile Systems, RWB Aerospace and DARPA, a highly competitive and elite group of researchers within the Department of Defense.

Graham received the award for his work in energy efficient wireless sensor networks using ultra-low power analog circuits. Wireless sensor networks rely on battery power, but typical applications drain batteries quickly, shutting down the network. Graham received a patent in 2009 and filed two more in 2013 with his student, Brandon Rumberg, all for the commercialization of ultra-low power electronics in sensor networks.

In 2012, he launched Aspinity Inc., a start-up company to bring his inventions to market. As an integrated-circuit design company, Aspinity currently is unique in the state, possibly even the first of its kind in West Virginia.

Wireless sensor networks hold great promise for all types of monitoring, from observing the environment, to keeping a watchful eye on borders around high security properties or borders between nations, to checking continually the safety of infrastructure such as bridges and the power grid.

Irwin, who is also a professor of mathematics, launched the Industries of the Future-West Virginia program in 1997. Since then, more than 50 faculty members and nearly 70 companies have conducted research and service programs that have led to millions of dollars in energy savings. In July 2011, the program was name one of four Champions of Energy Efficiency in Industry by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

His new venture, the TransTech Energy Research and Business Development program, seeks to identify and support energy entrepreneurs throughout the region whose companies can help transition society to cleaner, more efficient energy systems. The first-ever TransTech Energy Business Development Conference, held in November, 2012, attracted 15 start-ups that pitched their ideas to a panel of experts including venture capitalists and early stage investors, national laboratory researchers and economic development specialists.

The Second Annual TransTech Energy Business Development Conference will be held Nov. 6-7 at Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown. Companies will be able to pitch their programs to panel of experts who will decide which ones could receive a share of up to $40,000.

“I cannot stress enough how proud the WVU administration is of our applicants and award winners and the creativity and enthusiasm they bring to their work every day,” said WVU Vice President for Research Vice President Fred King. “As the selection committee observed, it was a challenge to identify only three winners.”



CONTACT: Lindsay Emery; WVU Research Corp.; 304.293.0391/304.290.0913 (cell)

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