UMass Amherst Students in Biofuels, Artificial Intelligence, Nanocrystals Win Isenberg Awards Supporting Further Research

AMHERST, Mass. – Eight graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst whose academic studies integrate science, engineering and management will receive Eugene M. Isenberg Awards for the 2009-2010 academic year, up to $10,000 each, to support their future work.

Established in 1994 by Eugene Isenberg, an alumnus of the UMass Amherst School of Management and the CEO of Nabors Industries, Inc., the program rewards promising students who may already have considerable expertise in one core area such as science, but who may need to learn more about management or business related to entrepreneurship in order to apply technology in new ways.

The 2009-2010 Isenberg Scholars are:

Anthony J. McCaffrey, of West Brookfield, Mass., a psychology doctoral candidate whose research explores techniques that technology managers can use to create an innovation-friendly environment. Specifically, he uses interviews and teaching techniques to study problem-solving and communication styles particular to engineers and scientists.

Tracy Heckler Panzarella, of Laurel Springs, N.J., a chemical engineering doctoral candidate whose research focuses on the synthesis and application of luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals, known as quantum dots, for clinical diagnostics, photovoltaics and nanoelectronics. She has synthesized a specific quantum dot for photovoltaic use, and her student-run company, QD Tech, won the grand prize in UMass Amherst’s 2009 Innovation Challenge for its plan to produce larger volumes at lower cost for the solar cell market. With the Isenberg Award, Panzarella plans to learn more about writing grants and a business plan. She earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from Rutgers University in 2005.

Sandhya Mohan, of San Jose, Calif., a software engineer with experience in Bangalore, India, is pursuing an MBA to integrate her strong information technology skills with general management practice. Her goal is to start a consulting firm to help businesses and nonprofits in the Amherst area improve their efficiency and effectiveness through creative IT solutions.

Tejaswini S. Kale, of Amherst, Mass., a chemistry doctoral candidate whose research focuses on the design and synthesis of macromolecules for solar cell applications. With the Isenberg Award, Kale will accelerate her solar cell research while learning more about technology transfer from laboratory to industry. She plans to return to India to help develop efficient alternative energy.

Ereni Markos, of Amherst, Mass., a marketing doctoral candidate interested in the interaction of technology, marketing and privacy. In particular, she studies the impact of Web 2.0, the second generation Web development characterized by social networks, blogging and online auctions, on consumers and business/marketing managers. As an Isenberg Scholar, Ereni will expand her research to explore populations other than students.

Mohamed Marwan A. Mattar, Alexandria, Egypt, a computer science doctoral candidate who plans to use his expertise in artificial intelligence to start a company that will provide improved products with a variety of applications. For example, collaborating with marine biologists in Maine and Louisiana, he is building 3-D, photo-realistic fly-throughs of a scene that should enhance the viewer’s ability to find and identify collected aquatic particles.

Supratim Mukherjee, of Kolkata, India, a microbiology doctoral candidate, focuses on improving industrially important strains of Clostridium phytofermentans, the Q Microbe, discovered by UMass Amherst microbiologist Susan Leschine. It can convert plant waste products into ethanol. Mukherjee will use the Isenberg Award to develop technology management skills for commercializing his laboratory work. He earned M.S. and B.S. degrees in biotechnology from Bangalore University.

The Isenberg Awards are an initiative of the Isenberg Program for the Integration of Management, Engineering and Science at UMass Amherst. The program encourages and informs students and faculty who are interested in new ideas, inventions and discoveries to solve problems, add economic value, and change the way people work or live.

Michael Malone, the Ronnie & Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor and the dean of Engineering, says, “We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Isenberg for their ongoing commitment to this program. Their leadership and insight into the value of integrative work offers a unique opportunity to our students.”

Soren Bisgaard, Eugene M. Isenberg Professor in Integrative Studies in the Isenberg School of Management, adds, “The diversity of academic interests and backgrounds of this year’s awardees underscores the importance of this program to the students, the campus and society. We look forward to their future contributions within and beyond their primary fields of study.”