Whether in labs or lecture halls, student organizations or startup businesses, innovation is a constant across Case Western Reserve. Next week, Sept. 26–29, the university will recognize that spirit with Innovation Week—four days filled with nearly 20 events celebrating CWRU’s culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
“For the second annual Innovation Week, we’re focused on understanding innovation as problem solving at scale. Great research universities help solve problems—in biotech, energy storage, vascular devices, information processing, and more—through research and discovery,” explained Senior Vice President for Research and Technology Management Michael Oakes. “Broader impacts often entail technology transfer and the wider ecosystem of community, governmental and corporate partners. Innovation Week is a time to celebrate and propel CWRU’s inclusive excellence in innovation.”
During Wednesday’s lunchtime session—a panel on “Innovation as Problem Solving at Scale” featuring partners from NASA, MAGNET and Greater Cleveland Partnership—the university also will present its Innovator of the Year awards.
These awards are intended to honor members of the Case Western Reserve University community who have demonstrated exceptional levels of innovation in specific areas. All members of the campus community are encouraged to attend the event to support the award recipients.
Innovator of the Year: Alumni
Jazmin Long (SAS ’15, MNO ’15) President and CEO, Birthing Beautiful Communities
Since starting as a pilot project in 2015 to reduce infant mortality in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, Birthing Beautiful Communities (BBC) has expanded to train more than 100 doulas and serve more than 1,000 mothers in Northeast Ohio. Its services are provided to mothers free of charge.
As president and CEO, Jazmin Long oversees a wide variety of projects for this burgeoning nonprofit organization. For example: BBC is partnering with the MetroHealth System to support expectant mothers in the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center, and it is building what will become Northeast Ohio’s only freestanding, community-led, Black-led birthing center, her nominator wrote.
“Jazmin Long is an innovator and true servant leader who is positively transforming Northeast Ohio’s marginalized communities,” they continued.
Long previously served as deputy director at Global Cleveland. She is an adjunct faculty member at the Mandel School, bringing her real-world experiences to the classroom to benefit future community leaders and innovators.
Innovator of the Year: Early Career
Lydia Kisley Warren E. Rupp Assistant Professor of Physics
Six years ago, Lydia Kisley was recognized as one of the “brightest young innovators and game changers” by Forbes in its “30 Under 30” list. Now, she’s being recognized as one of Case Western Reserve’s Innovators of the Year—specifically for early career (pre-tenure) faculty.
Kisley constructs purpose-built optical microscopes to understand materials at the ultimate concentration limit of a single molecule. By understanding the molecular and nanoscale behavior, she aims to inform material design.
Her research has included partnerships with industry, such as Lubrizol, 3M and Regis Technologies, and her work has been published in top scientific journals, including Nature Communications and Journal of the American Chemical Society.
She recently received the Cottrell Scholar Award, honoring outstanding teacher-scholars who are recognized by their scientific communities for the quality and innovation of their research programs and their potential for academic leadership.
“Dr. Kisley’s research accomplishments are nothing short of stunning,” her nominator wrote, “and they demonstrate over and over again her innovative genius.”
Innovator of the Year: Education
Lauren Calandruccio Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences
A winner of Case Western Reserve’s Wittke and Jackson awards for exceptional teaching and mentoring—the first to earn both in the same year—Lauren Calandruccio is no stranger to top university awards.
This year, she’s being honored with the Innovator of the Year: Education award for work on her $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant to continue building a yearlong mentoring program for students from underrepresented minority (URM) groups at Hampton University, a top historically Black university, and Case Western Reserve.
The program, Innovative Mentoring & Professional Advancement through Cultural Training, is designed to provide students with access to diverse communication sciences and disorders professionals, exposure to research opportunities, and preparation for graduate school.
“Dr. Calandruccio has combined established best practices into an innovative mentoring program for URM students that prepares them exceptionally well for future career success,” her nominator wrote. “The potential for broader impact of this program is exceptional.”
Innovators of the Year: Research
Megan Holmes Professor and Co-Director, Center on Trauma and Adversity
The recreation center project began in the summer of 2018, when the city—under then-Mayor Frank Jackson—launched an ambitious plan to increase mental health services for Cleveland residents. The project’s first phase involved training the rec centers’ staff on trauma-informed care. From there the city hired a dozen social workers and counselors to work within its recreation centers.
The second phase included developing comprehensive trauma-informed standards—including governance, policies and engagement—and developing tools to track and monitor progress.
“The significant contribution of this project to the well-being of the Cleveland community is demonstrated by the fact that it has been sustained—despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a new mayor,” Holmes’ nominator wrote.
The ability to quickly assess the clotting ability of a person’s blood can be life-saving, whether following a traumatic accident or on the battlefield. That’s where ClotChip comes in.
This portable, point-of-care device developed by Case Western Reserve researchers can assess the clotting ability of a blood sample 95 times faster than current methods, using only a single drop of blood at the point of care.
The ClotChip team, which has received federal funding for its work from the U.S. Department of Defense, earned one of two Innovator of the Year awards in the research category.
In 2020, XaTec Inc.—the commercialization partner on ClotChip—earned a “Breakthrough Device Designation” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This marked a major step toward advancing the team’s work, which began more than a decade ago.
“The ClotChip team,” a nominator wrote, “is an exemplar of CWRU’s innovative technologies translating to market for potential widespread civilian and military use.”
Innovator of the Year: Research Staff
Oral Health Disparities Group School of Dental Medicine
Serving and improving the health of the community is core to Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine—and the oral health disparities group exemplifies that through its work.
For more than 10 years, team members have conducted clinical trials in the community—recruiting and retaining participants, then collecting and analyzing complicated data.
They have published more than 25 manuscripts in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals—most recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They are recognized as leaders by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and the broader oral health community, their nominator said.
The group’s work has led to four major clinical trials receiving more than $20 million in funding by NIDCR and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Their work, their nominator wrote, has been “instrumental in successfully implementing several community-based clinical trials.”
Innovator of the Year: Student
Pam Bolton Second-year PhD student, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
For more than three decades, Pam Bolton has worked as a registered nurse and board-certified acute care nurse practitioner in a variety of hospital settings, providing care to acutely or critically ill patients and their families. Through her clinical experiences, she has identified how sleep deprivation impacts the recovery of critically ill patients.
Now pursuing her PhD, she has uncovered an area of research that, her nominator said, has been “underappreciated by clinicians”: how circadian rhythm misalignment and sleep deprivation in the intensive care unit can disrupt a critically ill patient’s physiology and overall recovery.
Bolton specifically is focused on disentangling how social determinants—in particular racial identity—affect rhythm mechanisms in patients recovering from cardiac surgery.
“Pam has demonstrated the ability to use innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to capture sleep, circadian rhythm, and glucoregulation and will explore if racial identity, as a social determinant, affects the relationships among her study variables,” her nominator wrote. “Her work has been recognized as innovative and significant.”