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ASU School of Molecular Sciences Inaugural Innovation Award recognizes first year PhD student for significant invention


Emeritus Professor William Glaunsinger, David Ciota, and Director Neal Woodbury.

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April 30, 2019

On Monday, April 22, the School of Molecular Sciences recognized graduate student David Ciota with the 2019 SMS Innovation Award at the Annual Awards Ceremony. The award is given to a graduate student for excellence in achieving the School of Molecular Sciences' mission of discovering molecular-level solutions to real-world challenges through the pursuit of methodology or development of research ideas or inventions.

Ciota, a first year PhD student, is doing research focused on the sustainable synthesis of inorganic materials with a particular interest in nanostructured transition metal oxides in Professor Don Seo’s lab.

“It has been about six months since he joined my research lab and yet he has been very productive, with one new invention and excellent research results for multiple publications,” said Don Seo, professor at the School of Molecular Sciences and Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics. “He has aspired to start a new chemical company of his own after graduation.”

After Ciota graduates, he would like to move into industry and continue his research career for a few more years. After that, he hopes to transition into a business and product development role where he can help advance research ideas and concepts into fully commercialized products that benefit society.

"As a PhD student, my goal is to expand my knowledge of materials chemistry and gain the skills necessary to become an independent researcher. I also hope to develop business and product development skills that will allow me to transition easily into a role in industry,” Ciota said. “I believe that applying for and winning the Innovation Award, as well as the experiences that come from it, will help me greatly in this regard.”

This award will recognize annually the most significant invention or research idea by a graduate student — or student team — in one of the six primary research areas of the school on a rotating basis. The first award in the area of assembly, materials and nanoscience was presented by Emeritus Professor William Glaunsinger. The award consists of a $1,000 cash prize, access to expert entrepreneurial assistance to develop the research idea/invention, along with a commemorative plaque. Ciota is eligible to receive additional grant funds to advance his invention after a Skysong Innovations evaluation.

“There were six candidates for this award, which recognizes the most significant invention demonstrating excellence in one of the school’s six primary research areas," Glaunsinger said. "We hope that this award will stimulate graduate students to identify the most innovative aspects of their research and its potential applications.”

To apply for the award, graduate students had to be in good standing with the School of Molecular Sciences and submit a written description of the research idea or invention in 500 words or less. The selection process is based on the innovative nature of the idea and the significance of the invention by the School of Molecular Sciences Innovation Award Selection Committee. The committee is made up of a minimum of three members from the research area of the award as appointed by School of Molecular Sciences Director Neal Woodbury.

“This year’s award had many innovative individuals or groups who applied,” Woodbury said. “We hope to encourage more graduate students to think about their research work and applying it to possible real world applications."

More information about the Innovation Award.

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