Lab highlights distinguished innovations

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By Roger Snodgrass

The seekers and finders of technological advances at Los Alamos National Laboratory celebrated another year of ingenuity Tuesday evening at Fuller Lodge.

“What I’ve enjoyed most about interactions with scientists and engineers at the lab is how excited they get about their technologies,” said Bill Enloe, chairman and CEO of Los Alamos National Bank, who gave a keynote talk to more than a hundred people gathered for the occasion.

With the loss of its manufacturing sector, the country has been living off the Internet and the information age for quite awhile now, Enloe said.

“A lot of that is not real value,” he said. The people receiving awards, on the other hand, were creating something that would have value in the coming years, as the economy becomes necessarily more value-driven.

Tech Transfer Division Leader Steve Girrens hosted the event.

The 2008 Distinguished Patent Award went to a team of seven individuals who work in three different divisions at the lab.

Greg Kaduchak, Greg Goddard, Gary Salzman, Dipen Sinha, John Martin, Cristopher Kwiatkowski and Steve Graves were recognized for a keystone patent that has supported a portfolio of intellectual properties with enormous value to the medical profession.

A Los Alamos-based company, Acoustic Cytometry Systems, was founded in 2006 with the proprietary technology licensed from LANL.

ACS made a successful exit in Nov. 2008, when it was acquired by Invitrogen, a California firm with a global reach in life-science products and services.

A single individual, Mark Hoffbauer of the Chemistry Division won the Distinguished Licensing Award.

Terry Wallace, the principal associate director for science, technology and engineering, who emceed the awards, called Hoffbauer’s nanotech processing technology, known as ENABLE, “important for building the next generation of devices from microprocessors to solar films to light-emitting diodes.”

Another team with multiple contributors won the Programmatic Impact Award for their cooperative research.

The Subsurface Flow and Transport Team, which was developed by Kay Birdsell, Shaoping Chu, Zora Dash, Zhenxue Dai, Al Eddebbarh, Carl Gable, Elizabeth Keating, Ed Kwicklis, Gordon Keating, Sharad Kelkar, Zhiming Lu, Terry Miller, Rajesh Pawar, Bruce Robinson, Philip Stauffer, Velimir Vesselinov, Hari Viswanathan, and Andrew Wolfsberg, George Zyvolski all of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, is the recipient of the 2008 Programmatic Impact Award for its work on the Finite Element Heat and Mass Transfer Code (FEHM).

Wallace said the code was considered “the national standard” in its class for simulations and had particular relevance to carbon sequestration, “one of the areas the lab must continue to grow in.”

Two laboratory employees, Marko Rodriguez and Jennifer Watkins, along with the company they helped launch, Knowledge Reef Systems, won the Technology Transfer Regional Impact Award.

Knowledge Reef headed by entrepreneur Gary Embersol, made quite a splash in the entrepreneurial community in the last two years, since winning the LANS Venture Acceleration Fund award in 2007 and attracting funds from Flywheel Ventures, New Mexico Angels and private investors.

After a prototype trial in 2008, with an advanced web-based concept for hosting intensive knowledge-based communities Ebersol said, the company was ready for its next phase. A new article by Rodriguez with Ebersol and others in the preprint ArXive earlier this month presents the latest description of the concept, “an overview of a context-sensitive recommender system to support the scholarly communication process that is based on the standards and technology set forth by the Semantic Web initiative.”

The managers in charge of the innovation awards program Tuesday evening at Fuller Lodge mercifully innovated a much shorter program than in previous years.

“The good thing is” said Wallace, “there are a lot of them,”

“The bad thing is – there are a lot of them,” he added. “The success is marvelous, but it’s also daunting.”

This year LANL gave out prizes to the four main categories of “distinguished” award winners, who used to be recognized in the midst of hundreds of worthy patent recipients, copyright holders, licensed income earners and other enterprising researchers.