Innovators Hall of Fame

 

The Alaska State Committee on Research (SCoR) created the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in 2014 to celebrate and honor outstanding individuals who put Alaska on the map as leaders in innovation and to contribute to Alaska’s growing culture of innovation.


 2021 Innovators Hall of Fame


The Juneau Economic Development Council joined the Alaska State Committee for Research (SCoR) in celebrating the 2021 inductees for the Innovators Hall of Fame. Ten nominees were inducted this year. 

The celebration is part of the annual Innovation Summit sponsored by the Juneau Economic Development Council held virtually on the afternoons of April 7-9. 

This year’s inductees are: 

Dr. F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin is Emeritus Professor of Ecology within the Institute of Arctic Biology and the Department of Biology and Wildlife at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in Fairbanks, Alaska. Dr. Chapin received his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1973 and began his career with the University of Alaska the same year. During his tenure, he has made contributions that shaped our fundamental understanding of how ecological structure and function creates and constrains diversity in vegetation and animals, with particular attention to Arctic and sub-Arctic plant communities, the effects of climate change, including feedbacks to the Earth system, and how concepts of vulnerability and sustainability impact human-ecological linkages in current and modeled future scenarios. As climate changes in our region, this research becomes a predictive tool for changing flora and fauna in the landscape. 

Dr. Chapin is a world recognized academic researcher and is known globally for his ecological, climate change, and environmental change focused research. He has developed new collaborations that drive interest in Alaska, UAF, and the changes occurring across the Arctic. He has truly placed Alaska on the map and is one of the leading researchers in the State and across the Arctic. 

Throughout his career, Dr. Chapin has continuously invented new views and experimental paradigms on how the environment constrains the physiological responsiveness of species, the co-evolution of herbivores and plant defenses, ecosystem responses to climate change, impacts of environmental change and stressors to human cultural and economic values, and organizing principles of environmental stewardship that conceptualize understanding of resilience in ecosystem function and management that serve society. He shared his findings in his 12 books and over 500 peer-reviewed publications that have been cited in other scientific contributions over 42,000 times. 

Dr. Chapin has committed to focusing his thinking, research, and teaching on the consequences of climate and landscape change to people, individuals, communities, and society. He also considers how fundamental principles in ecology and conservation can inform wildlife, resource, and ecosystem management policies, together with stakeholder response, to effect wise stewardship of our natural environment. 

He also pioneered a new and important paradigm--in this case in graduate education. He led the development of a successful interdisciplinary graduate education program at the University of Alaska that integrates ecology, economics, anthropology, political science, the geosciences, and other relevant disciplines to address sustainability in a systems framework. Since 2002, the Resilience and Adaptation Program in sustainability science has trained more than two dozen investigators to use socio-ecological research to address real world problems.

Quote (Jury citation naming Terry Chapin as the 2019 Volvo Environment Prize): “Humanity is at a critical point in our relationship with the Earth, as our actions are rapidly destabilizing our own planetary life support system. Professor Terry Chapin is not only a world-leading ecologist, he is also one of the world’s most profound thinkers and actors on stewardship of the Earth System. Professor Chapin has built a long and productive career that links ecology and ethics in both theory and practice. His novel concepts published over the last 30 years have been widely influential in understanding biological diversity which underpins human well-being. His focus has been on the global Arctic, where ecology meets climate change in the carbon-rich expanses of tundra, permafrost and boreal forest. Professor Chapin works with indigenous groups and local communities in both Siberia and Alaska, and connects local actions and well-being to global sustainability. His overarching theme of Earth Stewardship could not come at a more pivotal time, when deep institutional and structural change is required to meet the challenges ahead for humanity. His research is tremendously inspiring, with its focus on taking responsibility for our actions, our beliefs and our economic, social and political systems. 

Terry Chapin’s concept of Earth Stewardship as a guiding principle points to the scientifically sound and ethical management of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations, and for the rest of life on Earth. On this 30th anniversary of the Volvo Environment Prize, there could be no more deserving and outstanding Laureate than Terry Chapin.

Throughout his decades-long career in ecosystems research and global change, Professor Terry Chapin has worked tirelessly with people and for the planet. His work will have a long-lasting impact on the ways we seek to build a sustainable future, with the concept of Earth Stewardship supporting the deep institutional and structural change required to meet the challenges ahead.”

Terry

Terry - Book

Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu is Professor of Physics Emeritus, Director Emeritus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute and the Founding Director of the International Arctic Research Center also at UAF. Dr. Akasofu is an expert in aurora physics, solar physics, geophysics, and magnetosphere. He has published more than 550 professional journal articles, authored and co-authored 11 books and has guided nine students to their Ph.D. degrees. 

Much of what we know about the Northern Lights, in science and in popular culture, was informed by the work of Dr. Akasofu. His 1964 paper has become the foundation of the discipline of auroral/magnetospheric substorms and has been cited 1600+ times. His innovative methods to study the aurora has helped mankind understand solar storms, solar variation, and his numerous well-cited publications have helped build Alaska’s winter tourism industry, especially with travelers from Asia.  With his first book “Polar and magnetospheric Substorm” published in 1968, becoming a textbook for many graduate students, Dr. Akasofu established the notion of the substorm, now a fundamental concept of magnetospheric physics and inspired generations of space physicists to build on his pioneering work. 

In 1980, Dr. Akasofu was named a Distinguished Alumnus by UAF. The Royal Astronomy Society of London presented him with its Chapman Medal. He has been honored with the Japan Academy of Sciences Award, and the John Adams Fleming Award of the American Geophysical Union.  In 2003, the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, was conferred on him by the Emperor of Japan. The Hannes Alfvén medal was awarded by the European Geoscience Union in 2011. He was named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1977, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001. In 1985, Dr. Akasofu became the first recipient of the Sydney Chapman Chair Professorship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; and in 1987, he was named one of the "Centennial Alumni" by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. 

As Director of the Geophysical Institute, Dr. Akasofu concentrated his effort on establishing the institute as a key research center in the Arctic. He also played a critical role in the establishment of the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the modernization of the Poker Flat Research Range. As founding director of the International Arctic Research Center, built a strong collaborative team of scientists from many nations to address many problems associated with the changing Arctic. he supported an international project of the Arctic Ocean. 

In addition, he has received awards of appreciation for his efforts in support of international science activities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1993 and from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Japan in 1996. Dr. Akasofu was instrumental in creating the Frontier Program as well as cooperative agreements with Japanese agencies and the US National Science Foundation. He also received the 1999 Alaskan of the Year Denali Award, and the 2003 Aurora Award from the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors' Bureau. 

At the 50th anniversary of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu was highlighted as one who played an important role in shaping its future. As they state “Dr. Akasofu’s tireless efforts in both Japan and in the U.S. enabled him to raise millions of dollars for research, and create a strong, lasting collaboration in Arctic studies between the two countries during a critical period of rapid change. His work regarding the aurora has earned UAF international attention and his theories are now published in textbooks worldwide” 

Upon his retirement in 2007, the University of Alaska Board of Regents officially named the building that houses the International Arctic Research Center the "Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building" in recognition of "his tireless vision and dedicated service to the university, the state, and country in advancing arctic science”.

His Emeritus Professorship acknowledgement at the 2007 UAF graduation ceremony states, in part “Dr. Akasofu is recognized as a scientific entrepreneur whose tireless tenacity and leadership have contributed to the establishment and enhancement of some of the University's most esteemed scientific units; and his career-crowning service as an architect of the agreement that created the International Arctic Research Center has helped cement the University's position at the forefront of climate science exploration and cooperation.” 

Quote: “In a scientific field, there is almost always a well-established theory that has lasted a long time (some for 20-60 years). However, there are also almost always observational facts that contradict the theory, Most people discard or forget these. 

I have found these forgotten facts, which have interested me enough to examine a large amount of data of the related subject, together with forgotten data. Through such efforts. I have challenged established new theories and made a few “breakthroughs” or paradigm changes.

If there is anything that might be distinguishable me from other colleagues, it may be that I have a capability of finding the systematic and essential feature in a very confusing data set. It may take years, but I also possess Oriental patience. Results are often very different from the prevailing theories, so that I have been at odds with many of my colleagues many times. Yet, the fact that I have survived this far might indicate that I was right some of the time.”

 Akasofu

Dr. John Walsh, Chief Scientist at the International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, is one of the leading climate and weather scholars in the world. He has an outstanding track record as an innovator creating opportunities for entrepreneurs, government agencies, and many others through his unique ability to combine cutting-edge science contributions with a knack for turning his numerous scientific publications into tools that are widely used beyond the research community. 

Dr. Walsh has been the intellectual leader and innovator in pushing the development of high-resolution climate data sets and predictions relevant for and in much demand by decision-makers and planners in the State of Alaska. He has led a large collaborative team of university and federal agency scientists to both identify and validate the climate model predictions for Alaska with great predictive skill. His team then helped advance the scientific methods that allowed for translation (so-called downscaling) of climate data and climate predictions from the coarse scale of tens to hundreds of miles to the scale of a few miles or better that matters most for planners and decision-makers. 

Dr. Walsh’s innovative contributions to climate science and sea ice research bridged observations of snow and sea ice from northern Alaska coastal communities (ground-truthed citizen science) with satellite remote sensing data. This work has improved the usefulness of satellite sensing for commercial shipping, land-based development and ecosystem management, hydrologic science, and land and sea security missions become more dependent on snow and ice predictions. He was part of the group of climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized in 2007 with former Vice President Al Gore’s Nobel Prize.

The creation of the historic Sea Ice Atlas, along with a number of significant innovations, was a major undertaking led by Dr. Walsh. First, he developed a scientific methodology to create gridded time-series data of ice concentration based on historical records, such as whaling vessels or U.S. Revenue Cutter observations. He then worked with programmers at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy and SNAP to develop an online tool that would allow a range of different users, including maritime operators, students, and others to explore sea ice data from 1850 to 2019 and use this information for a range of different applications (http://seaiceatlas.snap.uaf.edu/). 

Dr. Walsh’s contribution to science goes far beyond exploring the intricacies of earth’s changing climate systems, he cares about making a difference in people’s lives. That often means pausing to explain complex science topics to students, journalists or the general public. The skill and patience in which he communicates science is rare and keeps people coming back for more. Few scientists can describe the complexity of climate change and its impacts more accurately, relatably or reliably as Dr Walsh. 

Quote: "Alaska and the Arctic are "ground zero" for climate change.  Our mission is to provide Alaskans and the rest of the world the best information for planning and adapting to a changing climate.  In order to do this, we must use novel approaches to synthesize measurements and climate model products in ways that align with stakeholder needs".

 

Greg Shipman has been working as a designer, inventor and manufacturer for more than 40 years. For the past 18 years, he has managed the Instrumentation Shop at the Geophysical Institute (GI) of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). In that role he has made multiple inventions and innovations, but more importantly, he works closely with research scientists around the UAF to help them bring their rough ideas into reality. Within the GI, research scientists build and fly instruments on rockets launched from our Poker Flat Research Range. There are also seismologists, volcanologists, and permafrost researchers performing experiments worldwide. Shipman designs and builds instruments for them to bore into glaciers or permafrost, fly on rockets into the ionosphere, or observe the aurora from multiple locations including South Pole Station in Antarctica. Shipman has also designed and built a number of his own inventions. 

Using specifications from UAF Professor Mark Conde, Shipman was able to design and build more than five versions of an optical interferometer, which has become the most sophisticated and capable instrument to measure high altitude winds. Versions of this instrument have been deployed successfully to the South Pole. He also designed and built canisters to fill with glow-in-the-dark chemicals, which were launched in clusters on sounding rockets at various locations around the world to help visualize high altitude winds.

Working with specifications from UAF Professor Don Hampton, Shipman built and helped deploy multiple versions of an all-sky camera to make real time observations of the aurora. NASA, space scientists and the general public use data from these cameras to study the aurora.

Shipman doesn’t just focus his talents on the university, he helps communities and industries all across Alaska. He has designed, built, tested and delivered several pinbone machines that could remove all of the bones from a salmon (or other fish) in a few seconds. The machine is fast and safe, reducing hand injuries, and is an important tool for fishermen in Seward.

When called upon by surgeons at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital to help them with a delicate surgery on a hockey player’s knee, Shipman modeled, and with a 3-D printer, printed plastic versions of the player’s femur for surgeons to practice and plan their surgery. He also used his skills with the 3-D printer to prototype and then fabricate enhanced core drill devices that were used by UAF researchers to obtain core samples from sea and glacier ice, and permafrost. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alaska, Shipman, working with fellow GI machinist Jeff Rothman, designed and built a half dozen ultraviolet sterilization chambers to sterilize PPE for front-line healthcare workers fighting the pandemic. 

Shipman is an innovative and inventive scientist who has created numerous instruments that are vital to all of the researchers at the University and all of Alaska. 

Quote: “As I see it; and as I strive to practice it, Innovation is taking a core idea and using available tools, technology and people to bring it to life. It’s not about being the smartest person in the room; it’s about harnessing the ‘smartness’ in the room.”

American businessman, environmental scientist and ESRI co-founder, Jack Dangermond has been called the “father of GIS” (geographic information systems) for his work on the development of GIS methodologies, the GIS software market, GIS technology research, and related analytical methods. Dangermond’s influence on the GIS world has been recognized by a wide range of organizations, including the U.S. Geological Survey, American Geographical Society, Royal Geographical Society, and the International Eurasian Academy of Sciences among others. 

In the late 1960’s, Dangermond conceived and brought forward what is now the world’s leading geographic information systems (GIS) software, guided by work for clients in Alaska. He helped develop the academic discipline of geomatics, or computer mapping. In 1969, with his wife Laura, he co-founded the dominant global GIS software firm, ESRI and built his software and technology from early contracts with several Alaska government agencies. His software helped Alaska and Alaska Native Corporations select lands gained with Statehood and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, and his work is present in almost every land management entity in the world.

Less widely known than Dangermond’s influence on GIS is the critical role that Alaska played in ESRI’s history and development. After co-founding ESRI,  Dangermond spent his first decade operating as a project-based consultancy, lending expertise around the world on everything from Libyan coastal-zone planning to Venezuelan town planning and environmental studies. The direction of the company began to change, however, when Dangermond received a visit from then technology director for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Jim Anderson. Anderson convinced Dangermond of the unique challenges and opportunities facing Alaska, and arranged meetings with various government agencies in the state. Dangermond credits these discussions and work in Alaska with shifting his and ESRI’s focus from doing project work to responding to what those agencies wanted, an integrated information system. This Alaskan shift ultimately helped to inspire and drive the creation of ESRI’s market-changing ARC/INFO software in the early 1980’s, and changed the global geographic information landscape forever. 

ESRI worked on many different influential projects in Alaska in conjunction with agencies such as DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and USGS. Some of the most important early projects included inventories and planning studies in the Susitna Basin for DNR, and coastal zone and city planning efforts for the Municipality of Anchorage. The Municipality later became the fourth licensee of ARC/INFO in the world and continues to utilize ESRI software to this day. ESRI also worked on an early Bristol Bay mapping and resource inventory project, and helped develop an integrated information system for the North Slope Borough. The marks of ESRI’s software and technology are present in almost every department and agency in the state. ESRI technology has also played major roles in military planning and environmental response, most notably during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. 

Today, ESRI is the leader in the global GIS software market with about one million users in over two hundred countries. This global market success has resulted in one of the largest privately held companies in the country, with Forbes placing Dangermond at #110 on its “Forbes 400 2020” list. Dangermond and his wife are also noted philanthropists, donating software, services and hardware to aid government agencies, furloughed workers, and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Keith Cox is founder and chief science officer of Certified Quality Foods Incorporated.   His development of the Certified Quality Reader has made a significant impact on the seafood industry in the ability to determine the freshness of fish. Dr. Cox is a deep thinker, has numerous ideas, and connects and collaborates extremely well with others.

The seafood industry in Alaska is one of the strongest in the world. The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is the world’s largest, most valuable wild salmon stock, and the region has accounted for over 50% of total Alaska salmon ex-vessel value in each of the past three years. Better data, knowledge and scientific innovations can increase the value of Alaska seafood. Food waste and quality defects in the seafood supply chain can be significant. Poor quality fish results in discounted pricing within the supply chain, increases waste, and turns consumers off from fish or seafood altogether. The economic implications of this are immense. For just the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, a difference of just 10% in #1 grade fish versus #2 grade fish could easily exceed over $50 million per year due to waste and discounting, not including the damage to consumer demand. 

Dr. Cox’s invention, the Certified Quality Reader or CQR, can accurately indicate exactly how “fresh” a fish is as it heads to the marketplace. Developed for Alaska salmon, it is useful in fisheries markets the world over. The CQR technology, which uses electricity to monitor health, condition, quality and degradation, allowing the supply chain to empirically and consistently monitor fish quality. Seafood processors and downstream businesses are able to build protocols that identify where quality problems are occurring and create solutions to resolve them.

Dr. Cox has built his firm Certified Quality Food, and its subsidiary Seafood Analytics, on this core technology. The company’s flagship CQR technology is able to directly upload electronic measurements of flesh conductivity, as well as other important quality indicators such as fat content, using blockchain technology to produce an objective and traceable quality score for all seafood products. The company recently completed a successful trial with the device for the Bristol Bay salmon season, producing an objective dashboard of data for use by seafood buyers and sellers throughout the salmon value chain.

The CQR device, with its portable frame and ease-of-use can be used everywhere from grocery stores to directly on fishing boats and in the homes of seafood consumers. The company's technology and data tracing methods have the potential to change the way the world thinks about and tracks seafood quality, and increase the influence and reputation of the Alaskan seafood industry as a whole. Of note, the technology can also be used in forensic science as well to assist law enforcement determine time of death for murder victims.

Dr. Cox was also the co-founder and president of the Sitka Sound Science Center, and Science Chair at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska. He taught for the University of Alaska Southeast for a number of years, inspiring students through his fresh perspective to education. Conducting labs in the real world rather than a classroom, he has inspired many students to go on and further their education and to develop new approaches to addressing problems in the fishing industry.

The seafood industry in Alaska is one of the strongest in the world and visionaries such as Dr. Cox are helping this important, vital Alaskan industry not only obtain better data, but enhance their ability to make rapid, real time decisions to further improve the quality and safety of Alaskan seafood. With the development of the CQR technology, Dr. Cox has produced a robust, easy to use device that will allow Alaska’s seafood industry to reach new heights in product quality, providing increased value for Alaska’s seafood industry and bringing even better seafood to seafood eaters everywhere.

Quote: “I have over 20 years’ of research experience and several peer-reviewed science publications in the bio-impedance arena.  The primary role CQ Foods, Inc. is to develop, create, and build BIA devices that can be used on various tissues and foodstuffs.  In that realm, we developed, innovated and published the first work using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to measure compositional components in fish that include fat, protein, water, dry, ash, and energy content; and relating these measures with condition.  We have also chaired symposia at international and national level meetings.  Our work has led us to support over 7 graduate students in the United States at several major Universities.  We work with industry, academia, Seagrant and non-profits to allow this technology to be utilized to improve efficiencies, transparency, trust and profits.”

Keith Cox

Alan Erickson is the co-founder of Indemnis, a rigid inflatable parachute concept for drone (unmanned) aircraft. Indemnis’ Nexus parachute is the first system to achieve unrestricted government approval for large-scale drone operations over people in both the U.S. and Canada, and is helping small package delivery and remote sensing by drone grow rapidly worldwide.

Born and raised in Anchorage, Erickson has had a slightly atypical entrepreneurial journey. As what many would call a “gifted” child, Erickson began trading stocks and reading Forbes in the third grade. At age 12, Erickson started in an arts program with a focus on film production that led directly to a successful career in the TV and film industry. Working with companies like Discovery Communications and Animal Planet, Erickson oversaw specialty camera operations and began to see a lack of reliable drone-specific parachute and safety measures that would be necessary to the coming drone revolution. While watching James Bond use an inflatable jacket to escape an avalanche one day, Erickson had a revelation to create a rigid inflatable parachute concept for drones. He co-founded Indemnis and their first major breakthrough came when they pioneered a method for welding Dyneema, a lightweight fiber material 7 times stronger than kevlar, to itself without compromising its structural integrity. This was a major innovation in materials science that even the military research labs had been unable to accomplish, and with potential applications far beyond the drone industry alone. Having made this breakthrough with Dyneema, Indemnis began a lengthy development process resulting in the Nexus parachute. Indemnis received immediate interest from government agencies and private companies alike after releasing their design, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

The future world where drones zoom around cities, delivering everything from Amazon packages to groceries and medical supplies, has never been closer. This is largely thanks to the success of Alaska-based Indemnis and its Alaskan co-founder and CTO, Alan Erickson. Indemnis, developer of the Nexus drone parachute system, has become a worldwide leader for innovation in the field of drone safety and operations. Furthermore, at the request of the Federal Government and the FAA, Erickson and Indemnis created and published industry standards for safely flying drones over people that are now used all around the world. Erickson and Indemnis have already left their mark on the drone world, and their impact will only grow as the industry continues along its current trajectory. 

Indemnis has already managed to secure partnerships and contracts with major companies and players around the world. The company has a full partnership with DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, as well as Dyneema-creator DSM. It also worked on the development of the UberEats delivery drone safety system, and has recently got one of the largest big-box retailers in the United States unrestricted drone delivery approval for COVID-19-related testing materials and equipment. As an Alaskan company that is on the cutting edge of a highly relevant and impactful future industry, Indemnis should serve as a model example for tech innovation and entrepreneurship in the state. Erickson, with his self-described “google” education, is also a shining example of the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that Alaskans possess. With young leaders like Erickson at the helm, the future looks very promising indeed for Alaskan tech innovation and development. 

Quote: “My approach to problem-solving is to find practical solutions while prioritizing the end-user experience. It is important to have a good team around you that can help you achieve your goals. When it came to solving the problem of parachutes entangling on drones I realized early on that traditional methods and technologies wouldn't work. I quickly identified a way to overcome this problem with the creation of the SLS and Nexus deployment systems, but that led to another problem which was how do we build these systems both at a prototype and production level. The first time my team and I built what we would consider a working prototype took almost 20 months from our first drawings.”

Dr. Mike Edgington is one of the world’s leading innovators of text-to-speech technology and the reverse, voice recognition technology. His inventions are used worldwide to generate automated weather forecasts for broadcast to mariners, aviators and the public. As a second act, Dr. Edgington developed technology that allows voice dialing systems, and the Siri voice-recognition system for Apple products.

From the emergency announcements on our televisions to the virtual assistants that speak back to us from our smartphones, speech technology has become a major part of our everyday lives, and yet is somehow taken a bit for granted. Girdwood resident and speech technology researcher Dr. Edgington, however, understands perfectly the work and innovation that has gone into making this technology happen. 

Dr. Edgington’s long career in the speech technology field began while studying for his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of York in England. By happy accident, he came across a linguistic professor’s idea for generating audible speech using existing synthesizing technology, and ended up lending his technical expertise to the project. This undergraduate work led to the pursuit of a PhD and work for British Telecom, where he and a small team developed an award-winning concatenative speech synthesis system called “Laureate” that allowed for the creation of one of the first online systems for text-to-speech generation in 1993. 

Following his PhD, Dr. Edgington moved to the U.S. where he joined a company called SpeechWorks working on commercial applications for speech generation. Among other projects, SpeechWorks created the speech generation system for the National Weather Service, which is still in use for weather broadcasts and updates today. Dr. Edgington next joined VoiceSignal Technologies where he helped develop one of the first voice dialing systems deployed in tens of millions of mobile devices around the world. Dr. Edgington’s most famous contribution to speech technology was still yet to come, however, as he was a part of the team at Nuance Communications that aided in the development of Siri for Apple, perhaps the best known virtual assistant and application of speech technology in the world today. For Siri, Dr. Edgington employed his expertise in computational and structural linguistics, as well as data analytics and research, to expand Siri’s coverage to over 42 different languages. 

Dr. Edgington’s dedication and contributions to the speech technology industry have helped shape the world we live in today, and deserve thorough recognition as the industry continues to develop and play an ever-increasing role in our everyday lives. 

Quote: "Innovation is a mindset, and while it's been better recognized in individuals, as technology becomes ever more complex it is critical that innovative thinking be fostered across distributed teams"

Dr. Don Hampton revolutionized the way we observe the aurora and low-light-level active plasma experiments in space. He is an expert in optics and works with the state-of-the-art optics and cameras to study the aurora over Alaska. During and before a sounding rocket launch from Poker Flats Research Range, scientists studied the development of the aurora from Hampton’s cameras deployed from Kaktovik on the Arctic Ocean to Gakona, 200 miles south of Fairbanks.

It is not often that a Ph.D. physicist can bridge the gap between theoretical physics (e.g., quantum mechanics) and “nuts and bolts” engineering. Dr. Hampton was employed by Ball Aerospace following his graduation from UAF as a system engineer. This is a risky undertaking for a corporate enterprise, but at the time it was Ball’s philosophy to hire exceptionally bright individuals, regardless of training and education background. Dr. Hampton did not disappoint. He contributed beyond expectation to NASA’s highly successful Deep Impact mission that rendezvoused with a comet. But more importantly, from UAF’s perspective, Dr. Hampton became an expert in modern optics systems (CCD detectors).

Among his peers, Dr. Hampton is considered one of the most innovative and creative faculty in the Space Physics and Aeronomy Group of the Geophysical Institute (GI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In support of NASA, the space physics community and the general public, Hampton developed and deployed an array of color all-sky cameras across Alaska. His high space and time resolution videos of the aurora are extremely popular with the general public and he makes them available online at Optics.gi.alaska.edu. Thanks to Dr. Hampton, scientists and the general public have access to color, real-time imagery of the aurora. His experience with optical systems and advanced detectors enabled him to transform the auroral observation program in Alaska. 

Dr. Hampton is commonly called upon by space scientists to help develop optics for flight on sounding rockets and was recently invited to develop instrumentation for the Kinetic-scale energy and momentum transport experiment (KiNET-X) to be flown on sounding rockets. He has built several optical instruments for flight on small CubeSats, a 4” cube satellite, which is especially challenging since every function in a satellite (power systems, attitude systems, communications and optics) must fit within the 4”cube envelope.

As an Associate Professor at the Geophysical Institute, Dr. Hampton executes his research program and instructs graduate students, transferring his knowledge and experience to a new generation of space scientists. Dr. Hampton is the Chief Scientist of the Poker Flat Research Range and assists scientists from around the world who come to launch rockets. His instruments allow them to know the optimum time to initiate launch.

Dr. Hampton’s talents are multi-faceted and there are very few scientists that can teach theoretical physics and build hardware for space-based auroral measurements. The state of Alaska is unbelievably fortunate to have Dr. Hampton bringing the aurora and space physics to the public.

Quote: “The aurora has always attracted great fascinating from anyone who is lucky enough to see it. The progress made in understanding the origins and processes in aurora have been gradual, but the recent explosion in consumer cameras and computing has led to a parallel explosion in scientific detectors and processors, which has enable new and hopefully better ways of capturing the aurora. Trying to keep up with this breaking wave of technology has been a challenge and my privilege, and I look forward to finding new ways to take more precise and accurate measurements of the aurora and learn how it affects our upper atmosphere.”

Dr. Orion Lawlor is the leader of a group effort to develop materials intended to prepare local and national entities for a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The innovations that Dr. Lawlor spearheaded included a 3D printed adaptor for a Positive Air Pressure Respirator (PAPR), as well as a gelatin-based head model for testing the efficacy of facemasks.

In the case of the PAPR adaptors, these were intended to connect a Bullard PAPR over-the-head mask and hood to a 3M Versaflow PAPR air filter and fan unit. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital had requested UAF design this part, which is not produced commercially, so they could connect their large existing inventory of Bullard masks to their existing inventory of PAPR units. Because this part combines round and projecting features, it is challenging to machine. Dr. Lawlor and his team were able to design a hybrid manufacturing scheme combining 3D printing, to make the initial part, including projecting features, with a CNC lathe finishing operation to remove printed support material and create a smooth surface finish on the round surfaces.

Funding was provided by the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship's (Center ICE) Immediate Innovation for Coronavirus Prevention (IICP) grant, which is in turn funded by a grant from the Office of Naval Research. Approximately 150 of the adaptors were fabricated and donated to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and local firefighters.

Dr. Lawlor and his team designed and fabricated the gelatin head model, then published the plans on github in order to freely disseminate the innovation as a public service (https://github.com/olawlor/GelatinMaskHead). While it is difficult to measure the extent to which the head model was used nationwide for mask testing, it is noted that the associated video was viewed approximately 500 times on Youtube, thus indicating broad interest in the innovation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NLSwF6I3zg.

As noted, both of these innovations were team efforts, and Dr. Lawlor considers it essential to give credit to his team members. They include Javier Fochesatto, who helped figure out aerosol testing, and provided an optical particle counter, Ben Loeffler, who did most of the PAPR adapter CAD design work, Dayne Broderson, who coordinated the PAPR adapter development and interfaced with the hospital and fire departments, Gwen Holdmann and Mark Billingsley, who helped to quickly obtain Center ICE funding, Erik Johansen, who eventually built perfectly finished, machined versions of the adapters once the geometry was figured out with the 3D printing, students Eli Simmons and Matt Perry, who helped build the gelatin mask tester and test masks, and students Levi Purdy, Michael Radotich, and Duncan Fisher, who helped 3D print PAPR adapters.

Our society often relies on innovative ideas to get us through times of crisis. When faced with challenges presented by COVID-19, Dr. Lawlor and his team stepped up and contributed to our community response, and in so doing helped to illustrate the criticality of UAF educators and innovators to the Fairbanks region.

Quote: "Modern computer aided design tools and digital fabrication technology lets us build sample parts in hours, and then print hundreds of parts in days.  In March 2020 at the outset of the COVID emergency, UAF was able to use these tools to respond to an urgent need at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for parts for their positive air pressure respirators (PAPR units) used to connect the PAPR blower to the hood.  Combining expertise from UAF engineering faculty, staff, and students, UAF research expertise such as the GI machine shop and researchers, we were able to design, print, and fit-test a digital model for this part, and then 3D print, sanitize, bag, and deliver the requested 150 copies within a week.

We also saw a need to measure the effectiveness of existing commercial and improvised masks, so we built a novel mask testing apparatus that simulates a human face using gelatin overmolded around a 3D printed skull model, then covered with a rubber layer.  This better approximates the consistency of a human face, and reproduces the gaps around the nose.  Working with some of UAF's aerosol transport and measurement experts, we flowed aerosol through the head model while wearing different masks, and measured how much aerosol each mask type captured.

Funding was provided by the Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship's Immediate Innovation for Coronavirus Prevention (IICP) grant, which is in turn funded by a grant from the Office of Naval Research to develop advanced manufacturing tools using an interdisciplinary approach."

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Research Paul Layer and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer co-hosted the event. The event was held virtually from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. on April 7 and was livestreamed via the UA System Facebook page: https://www.facebook. com/uasystem

 


NOMINATION INFORMATION


Nominations for the 2022 Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame

Information for 2022 will be updated when available. 

A nominator can nominate a person for election to the SCoR Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in one of three ways:

  1. Complete the NOMINATION FORM (including statements on the nominee's innovation and its impact, illustration/photos, nominee and contact information, references and evidence of impact) and submit it with the nominee's full CV, and a personal letter of nomination. Additional letters of support will be accepted 
  2. Nomination packets can be submitted via email to kajames6@alaska.edu, with subject line "2022 Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame Nomination Packet for [nominee's name]"  
  3. All nomination documents, including supporting letters, can be submitted by the nominator in a single packet by mail to SCoR Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame Nomination Committee, c/o University of Alaska Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, P.O. Box 755000, Fairbanks, AK 99775-5000. 
  1.  The Alaska State Committee for Research (SCoR) invites interested persons to nominate outstanding science, engineering and technology innovators to be inducted into the SCoR Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame. Nominees selected by SCoR will be members of the 2022 class and will be inducted at the Innovation Summit held in Juneau.
  2. SCoR created the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in 2014 to celebrate and honor outstanding individuals who put Alaska on the map as leaders in innovation and to contribute to Alaska’s growing culture of innovation.  
  3. The SCoR Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame Selection Subcommittee will review nomination documents and publicly available information about nominees to develop a list of recommended inductees. This list will then be submitted to the full SCoR committee for consideration and selection. The University of Alaska Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs will notify all nominees of their selection status. 
  1. Nominees should have demonstrated innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions or lifetime achievements in their field that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, the environment, the welfare of the people of Alaska and/or a global impact.  
  2. Nominees will be inventors and innovators in the fields of science, engineering and technology.  
  3. Nominees should provide evidence of the impact of their contributions to innovation. Evidence could include patents and licensing, and/or publications, news and articles citing innovative discovery and technology with significant impact on society. 
  4. Anyone can nominate an individual or a team. Self-nominations are not eligible.  
  5. Nominee must have been an Alaska resident for at least one year, or have made a significant demonstration of the innovation’s links to Alaska or have conducted research work in Alaska. 
  6. Nominators may choose traditional/historic inventions even if the name of an inventor is not known.