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2021 Innovation Celebration

JUNE 1, 2021 — MEDIA CONTACT: Tracy Henion, Director of Communications, ander1ta@msu.edu

Each year, the MSU Innovation Celebration honors Michigan State University researchers who reported an invention, licensed a technology or were awarded patents during the academic year. The awards recognize outstanding achievements in technology transfer and sponsored research.

Hosted by the MSU Innovation Center, this year would have marked the 11th annual event, but due to the global pandemic, it was canceled as it had been in 2020. Plans are underway for the 2022 Innovation Celebration.

The 2021 honorees:

  • Tech Transfer Achievement Award: Timothy Grotjohn, a professor in MSU’s College of Engineering, has been researching and working for decades on the technology to grow diamonds in a lab for use in semiconductors and other advanced electronic applications. “MSU is getting to be known for its diamond work,” Grotjohn said. “We can supply those key semiconductor pieces others can’t.” That work is crucial for entities such as the U.S. Department of Energy because diamond material has an incredibly high thermal conductivity — much higher than copper — making it ideal for use in semiconductors.
  • Innovator of the Year Award: Muhammad Rabnawaz, an assistant professor in MSU’s School of Packaging and adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry, has published more than 50 research articles in the field of polymer and materials sciences, and he has filed and/or been granted more than 30 patents, eight of which are licensed or optioned. “If I don’t have the support that connects this data to the industry, my research wouldn’t make it to market. I need to focus on my research and mentoring students,” Rabnawaz said. “With the facilitation and encouragement from the Innovation Center, my work can thrive.”
  • Innovation of the Year Award: Kathy Steece-Collier, a professor in the Department of Translational Neuroscience in the MSU College of Human Medicine, is working with her team to study the capacity and limitations of a gene therapy that can reduce and eliminate the side effects caused by Levodopa, a drug prescribed to alleviate tremors, stiffness and other motor symptoms characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. “I’ve been studying ways of dampening dyskinesia for approximately 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything this effective,” Steece-Collier said.
  • Corporate Connector Award: Jennifer Rumler, managing director of MSU’s sales leadership minor, builds corporate partnerships to help students understand the potential and value of a career in sales. Thanks to those partnerships, MSU is developing a pipeline of creative problem-solvers ready to take on the role of professional salesperson. “We have a 100% job placement rate for the program for 10 of our 11 years,” Rumler said. “That’s not 100% six months after graduation – it’s before they graduate.”

Innovator of the Year Award: Muhammad Rabnawaz

Muhammad Rabnawaz’s mind is brimming with ideas. The assistant professor in Michigan State’s School of Packaging and adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry is constantly looking for ways to blend fundamental science with large-scale impact. “I grew up in Pakistan and did my Ph.D. in Canada,” Rabnawaz said. “Coming to the U.S. was...

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Timothy Grotjohn, Technology Transfer Achievement Award

Diamonds are grown at Michigan State University. But these gems aren’t destined for jewelry; they’re materials created for use in semiconductors and other advanced electronic applications. And Timothy Grotjohn, a professor in MSU’s College of Engineering, has been researching and working on the technology for decades. “Over the past 30 years, I’ve been involved...

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Corporate Connector of the Year: Jennifer Rumler

 As managing director of Michigan State’s sales leadership minor, Jennifer Rumler is keenly aware of the value of corporate connections. MSU’s unique program isn’t funded by the university – it’s supported almost exclusively by corporate partnerships. “So, I have a sales job too,” she said. “I have to sell companies on the notion...

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Innovation of the Year Award: Kathy Steece-Collier

Listening to Kathy Steece-Collier talk about her research on the development of improved therapeutics for people with Parkinson’s disease, it’s easy to get caught up in her enthusiasm. She describes sitting by the pool with her children on spring break about a dozen years ago, reading a manuscript about a particular calcium channel in...

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