Students win honors for research presentations

I2P team -- Gina Montgomery, Adam Campen and Hanna Shay competed for Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently in the Missouri/Illinois Regional Idea to Product Competition at St. Louis University. (Photo provided)Download Photo Here

April 13, 2010

Students win honors for research presentations

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two interdisciplinary teams from Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently brought home honors from the Missouri/Illinois Regional Idea to Product Competition at St. Louis University.

The teams from the Center for Innovation, a unit of the College of Business, made presentations highlighting research and technologies from SIUC faculty and researchers. The presentations focused on a prototype device that separates and isolates proteins and on hydrogen production through coal gasification. The presentations and work surrounding them underscore the innovative spirit of SIUC and are valuable learning experiences for those involved, organizers say.

“The I2P competition provides our students with a multifaceted experience. They work with students from other departments and have to learn how to function in interdisciplinary groups. They interact with top regional venture capitalists, scientists and educators so they have to understand how all the pieces of the corporate puzzle fit together. And this type of comprehensive experience helps prepare them for their future jobs by giving them a taste of what it is like in the ‘real world.’ It gives them a leg up in the job market,” said Maryon King, director of the Center for Innovation and associate professor of marketing.

In 2006, Luke Tolley and Matthew McCarroll, both associate professors in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, developed a prototype device called the Dynamic Isoelectric/Anisotropy Binding Ligand Assay, or DIABLA. It separates and isolates proteins, and development is continuing.

Since many researchers believe protein malfunctions lead to the abnormal cell growth we call cancer, being able to quickly and accurately separate proteins for study and even introduce other molecules to those proteins and view reactions has the potential to significantly impact the study of cancers and search for cures. Other faculty researchers at SIUC have also worked with this revolutionary technology as well.

During the I2P competition, Gina Montgomery, of Pinckneyville, and Hanna Shay, of McLeansboro, made it to the semi-final round with their presentation in the health care/security phase of the competition, taking best in track for the category and a $500 prize. Montgomery, a senior industrial design major, and Shay, a doctoral graduate student in analytical chemistry with a 2006 bachelor’s in chemistry from SIUC, gave a 10-minute presentation about DIABLA. A 15-minute question and answer session with the judges followed. They discussed the background of the technology, how DIABLA works, the market potential, and more.

They continue to work with the researcher developers to get the product, with patent pending, ready for market. Montgomery is helping with further development of the prototype while Shaw carries on more research for technology applications.

The two SIUC teams were among a select group of 16 chosen for the competition, which featured four different competition tracks. The Center for Innovation in collaboration with the Office of Technology Transfer sponsored the SIUC teams.

Judges included representatives from venture capital firms and CEOs of various companies. Building upon extensive research by the technology developers and their assistants and with assistance from Center for Innovation staff, the student teams researched potential markets, created a one-page summary proposal for the technology and five-page commercialization plans for the competition and submitted it all prior to the March 26-27 contest. They gave their oral presentations during the competition.

Montgomery also paired with Adam Campen to make the presentation about hydrogen production. The presentation by Montgomery and Campen, a doctoral student in engineering science from Benson, won a $250 award. Renee Favreau, a marketing major from Carbondale who is working on her MBA, also contributed to development of the project prior to the presentation.

The hydrogen production through coal gasification presentation put a spotlight on research by Tomasz Wiltowski, a professor, and Kanchan Mondal, an assistant professor. Both are in the mechanical engineering and energy processes department. The technology, in the works since 2004, produces clean, extractable hydrogen energy through coal gasification and a patent is pending on the product.

Since the competition, Campen, Montgomery and Favreau continue to work with Mondal and Wiltkowski on the hydrogen production project. They’re working on the prototype, continuing marketing research and testing as well.