Group of people posing under an Innovation Week poster

Watch: Highlights from CWRU’s inaugural Innovation Week

As the opening session of Case Western Reserve University’s inaugural Innovation Week kicked off last Monday, President Eric W. Kaler took to the microphone to welcome the more than 220 people filling Thwing Center ballroom and the many others tuning in via livestream.

“Innovation is an absolute key part of what we do,” he said in his opening remarks. “We teach, we research and we innovate. That is what we’re all about.”

As the week went on and hundreds more members of the campus community came together to hear from experts, share their ideas and experiences, and celebrate outstanding faculty, President Kaler’s words proved true.

“From the impressive research and entrepreneurship of faculty and students to the hard work of staff who built this event from the ground up, what we’ve seen these past few days has truly been the epitome of innovation,” said Michael Oakes, senior vice president of research and technology management. “I can’t wait to see how we build Innovation Week in years to come, as we grow Case Western Reserve’s research enterprise and become a leading problem-solving institution with tremendous tech transfer.”

Throughout the week, faculty, staff, students, alumni and more took part in a variety of events: panels on venture capitalists’ decision-making, industry funding for research, the National Academy of Inventors chapter at CWRU and innovation resources on and off campus.

Then, during Friday’s poster pitch contest for students and postdocs, 10 winners each took home $1,000:

  • Jacqueline Shaia, PhD student in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences: “Will your world fade to black?”
  • Chris Acquah, PhD student in the Department of Chemistry: “Developing bio-compatible organic compounds as photodynamic therapy agents for cancer cells”
  • Palak Gupta, PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering: “Seeing into your eye with virtual reality”
  • Zoe Sekyonda, PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering: “Advancing the health care of sickle cell disease patients”
  • Yvette Zhu, MD student in the School of Medicine: “The future of Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing” 
  • Mikaela Elliott, third-year undergraduate student in the Department of Psychological Sciences: “Group Engagement and Parenting Outcomes in a Community-Based Parent Support Program”
  • Rachel Wyetzner, fourth-year undergraduate student in the Department of Biology: “Syntaxin-binding protein 5 (STXBP5) plays a role in germ layer specification, left-right patterning, and heterotaxy”
  • Carson Smith, PhD student in the Department of Pathology: “Adjuvant AS01 induces monocyte activation that increases costimulatory function to T cells”
  • Aidan Friederich, PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering: “Achieving Leaning Postures after SCI through Feedback Controlled Neural Stimulation”
  • Pamela Robinson, PhD student at Weatherhead School of Management: “An Inescapable Pathway Towards Agribusiness Management 2050”

Faculty innovators also were celebrated: Four earned the university’s Faculty Distinguished Research Award, while 30 more took home Innovation Week awards during a ceremony Thursday.

In his remarks upon earning the Innovator of the Year award—one of two medals he received that evening—Distinguished University Professor Sanford Markowitz, discussed the feelings one may have when launching something truly innovative.

“To do something that has never been done before,” he said, “is fraught with peril and adversity.”

The next afternoon, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joy K. Ward quoted Markowitz’s insights. But, she continued to tell the students and postdocs gathered to pitch their bright ideas: “I ask you to be courageous and hard working and believe in yourselves—and go, really do something to make this world a better place.”