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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 21, 2007 

UI Researchers, Projects Named Finalists For Technology Leadership Awards

From virtual soldier research aimed at creating intelligent, human-like figures that can interact with their environment to a popular ePortfolio program for educators, the University of Iowa is a leader in technical innovation.

This point was brought home recently when several University of Iowa and UI Hospitals and Clinics research programs, individuals, related companies and technology projects were named finalists for the Technology Association of Iowa's 2007 Prometheus Awards.

The Prometheus Awards recognize outstanding contributions made by companies and individuals in Iowa over the past year to industry, communities and the state. The winners will be announced at the annual awards event March 7 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines in Des Moines.

"The University of Iowa is one of the leading U.S. research universities, and the designation of UI research programs as finalists in the 2007 Prometheus Awards program is one more recognition of that fact," said UI Vice President for Research Meredith Hay. "The UI remains committed to being a leader in pursuing innovative research that will enable Iowa and the nation to remain competitive in the global economy."

Following is a list of projects, businesses and individuals nominated from the UI in various award categories:

* Innovator of the Year: Tom Schnell, Operator Performance Laboratory director.

The Operator Performance Laboratory is developing systems to improve flight safety, including advanced flight deck design, synthetic and enhanced vision systems (SVS/EVS), operator state assessment and physiological measurement. One current research activity involves a five-year, $887,628 NASA grant to equip aircraft avionics systems so they can gauge a pilot's state of mind -- based on physiological measures, aircraft state and flight mission parameters -- and to take appropriate action when necessary. For example, on long and boring flights, the avionics system could be alerted to possible pilot drowsiness, based on pilot physiological patterns caused by very low workload levels. The reaction of the avionics system could range from issuing audible warnings to automatically activating the autopilot.

* Top Government Technology of the Year: UI College of Education's ePortfolio and UI College of Engineering's Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) Program.

Created in 1996, ePortfolio™ is an innovative, Web-based portfolio for recording and tracking education students' progress toward meeting academic and state licensing requirements. The ePortfolio framework allows students to develop their skills, reflect on their practice and showcase their strengths - in the form of text, photos and multimedia -- to faculty, assessors and prospective employers.

The VSR Program conducts research aimed at creating human-like figures that are interactive and intelligent. The computer-simulated humans can execute a wide variety of tasks aimed at testing and evaluating vehicles, clothing and other items. Key to the program is a digital human called Santos™, who possesses accurate biomechanical and physiological characteristics, enabling him to predict motion and execute tasks unaided. VSR and Santos™ are designed to save time and money by reducing the need to build physical prototypes in the testing and evaluation of products, equipment, vehicles and armaments prior to manufacture. Barely three years old, VSR has received a total of more than $11 million in U.S. Army and private industry funding.

* In Educator of the Year: Dr. George Bergus and Ellen Franklin in the UI John J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine were nominated for the college's Performance-Based Assessment Program.

The program, developed by Bergus and Franklin and in use since 2002, assesses medical students' clinical skills by observing their performance in simulated physician-patient encounters. Using advanced digital audiovisual equipment installed in mock patient examination rooms in the college's Medical Education and Research Facility, instructors can record a student's performance in a controlled clinical setting, and faculty and students can watch and evaluate the video from any location with Web access. The digital video also is used in training simulated patients to create standardized medical cases that aid in learning. The program has become a model worldwide for using digital technology to strengthen the medical school curriculum.

*  Chief Information Officer of the Year: Lee Carmen, director of health care information systems for the UI Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics.

As chief information officer for the Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics, Carmen has been successful in developing and leading the group responsible for supporting the information technology and telecommunications needs of the academic, research and clinical areas of UI Health Care. His staff provides technical support for more than 800 different applications that are accessed by more than 14,000 computing devices across more than four million square feet of facilities. Carmen has played a key role in implementing computer systems focused on increasing patient safety and enhancing clinical efficiencies, and recently he led an effort to acquire a new, integrated and comprehensive clinical information system for the enterprise. Carmen also has been instrumental in developing and supporting information technology solutions that enhance medical education at Iowa and help UI biomedical researchers secure external research grants and contracts.

* Service Provider of the Year and Technology Company of the Year: Innovative Software Engineering (ISE). 

Located in the UI's Oakdale Research Park, ISE provides customer crafted software development services and system integration. It targets the transportation data services industry, with specialization in vehicle telematics, using global positioning technology integrated with embedded computers and mobile communications. ISE also worked with The McGraw-Hill Companies' Coralville-based education staff in the creation of the Breakthrough to Literacy™ product line for pre-kindergarten through third grade and currently in use in over 450 school districts and more than 9,800 classrooms nationwide. Founded in December 2002 with eight employees, ISE has expanded to a staff of 23 employees with more than 150 years of combined software product development service involved in four primary service areas: engineering management, systems engineering, quality assurance and software development.

* Outstanding Startup Company of the Year: VIDA Diagnostics.

Located in the UI's Technology Innovation Center, VIDA Diagnostics is a UI spin-off company based on research done at the UI and on core technology licensed from the UI Research Foundation. The company was founded by four UI faculty members: Eric Hoffman, M.D., professor of biomedical engineering, nursing and radiology; Geoffrey McLennan, M.D., professor of internal medicine; Joseph M. Reinhardt, associate professor of biomedical engineering; and Milan Sonka, professor of electrical and computer engineering. VIDA develops medical imaging and analysis software for assessing lung structure and function. VIDA's software solutions, based on research conducted at the UI, aids in the planning, guidance and evaluation of various therapeutic interventions for lung diseases. VIDA's customers include researchers at pulmonary device and pharmaceutical companies as well as researchers at leading lung research centers.

* Technology Company of the Year: Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT).

IDT is the largest supplier of custom nucleic acids in the United States, serving the areas of academic research, biotechnology, clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical development. IDT's primary business is the manufacturing of custom DNA and RNA oligonucleotides (oligos) for research applications. Joseph Walder, who founded the company in 1987, has helped the company achieve annual double-digit growth over the past 10 years. Walder, currently adjunct professor of biochemistry at the Carver College of Medicine and IDT's president and CEO, founded the company through a partnership with Baxter Healthcare Corporation at the UI Technology Innovation Center business incubator. Today, the company he started has grown from a start-up with 10 synthesizing machines to one with more than 500, serving customers all around the globe as they test for genetic diseases, discover new drugs and develop new treatment models tailored to the specific needs of individual patients. IDT employs more than 400 employees, of which a majority works at the company's corporate headquarters in Coralville. Additionally, IDT's IT professionals are based in an office building in the UI Research Park at Oakdale. Walder was also nominated for a Prometheus Award in the CEO of the Year category.

Pamela York, executive director of the UI Research Foundation, served on a panel of seven judges to select the finalists.

The 2007 Prometheus Awards are presented by the Iowa Department of Economic Development, with major sponsorship support from Applied Art and Technology; LWBJ; McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC; and Oracle. The Des Moines Business Record is the official media sponsor.

To view the complete list of finalists, visit:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lois Gray, 319-384-0077,; Writers: Gary Galluzzo, George McCrory and Dave Pedersen.