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Cornell wins big for future innovation

Woman stands behind computer equipment
Courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Michal Lipson's research is more cutting edge than this computer.

Forget the Nobels. Cornell was raking in the medals last week. And not just for past achievement, but for initiatives that will give future innovations a head start. 

Michal Lipson, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering received a MacArthur Genius Grant. Lipson's research has established basic tenets of creating microcircuits for photons (rather than electrons), research meant to advance fiber optic communications.

TheMacArthur Fellows Program, which presents grantees with half a million dollars in open-ended support over five years, "is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations."

The NIH Innovator Awards aren't less of ano-strings attached deal than the MacArthurs. Three faculty were awarded 1.5 million dollars to support ongoing research.

  • Maria Julia Felippe, at the veterinary school studies common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), which makes horses (and people) more vulnerable to recurrent bacterial infections.
  • Ruth E. Ley, assistant professor of microbiology, looks at microbial communities in the digestive systems of mice.
  • John C. March, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering, is trying to harness microbes in the gut to treat diabetes.

The NIH require less paperwork, and allow greater room for failure in pursuit of high-stakes research gains. In the language of the NIH, theInnovator Awards are for "stimulating highly innovative research and supporting promising new investigators."

We're still waiting for the explanation on why the awards season orbits around October 1. Answers to that research question can be submitted on our facebook page.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.