Three UMass Amherst Faculty Members Receive UMass System Seed Funding to Commercialize Scientific Breakthroughs
Three UMass Amherst researchers will each receive up to $25,000 in seed funding to commercialize their scientific breakthroughs, thanks to awards from the Technology Development Fund overseen by the Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures (OTCV) at the UMass President’s Office.
The awards to Amir Arbabi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Siyuan Rao, assistant professor of biomedical engineering; and Govind Srimathveeravalli, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, are among 10 grants totaling $250,000 invested in faculty research projects throughout the five-campus UMass system.
The Technology Development Fund awards provide supplemental funding to help close the gap between UMass research discoveries and proven technology that address local, national and global challenges.
Arbabi is developing a low-cost prototype of programmable photonic chips (PICs) set by micro and nanoscale. Academic and industry have pursued various approaches for reconfiguring photonic chips, but they have been hindered by their high-power consumption, large device footprints, and limited reconfigurability. The proposed reconfigurable PICs enable highly desirable devices and systems, such as lidar transceivers, large switches for optical communications, optical quantum computers and AI accelerators.
Rao’s project aims to provide a better soft-materials solution for recording neural activity and administering drugs in mobile nerve regions. These hydrogel-based neural probes will be used for long-term electrophysiological recordings in injured spinal cords, with their soft hydrogel structure matching the mechanical properties of nerve tissues. This enables signal collection during movement, facilitating tracking of spinal cord recovery and testing pharmacological interventions. Funding from the OTCV development fund will support these studies and further research into human spinal cord injury treatments.
Srimathveeravalli’s research centers on technology that generates a “liquid sample,” which will allow physicians to extract biopsy samples from entire tumor volumes in a predictable fashion. This first-of-its-kind device improves prostate cancer diagnosis among the growing population of men who will experience the disease. The proposed work will perform refinements to the waveform used for extracting the genomic material from cells, with the goal of making the technique suitable for use in office-based clinic settings with minimal sedation requirements.
The UMass system drives discovery and economic growth throughout the state, conducting $813 million in annual research and development in fields critical to the commonwealth’s economy. The university drives $7.5 billion in statewide economic activity – a 10-to-1 return on investment. UMass supports close to 50,000 jobs in Massachusetts, including 24,000 faculty and staff members and more than 30,000 private sector jobs.