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Tech Overtones: MIT’s mag touts top tech innovators around the globe

09/20/2004 07:22 AM
By Jim Malone
I thought we here at Mass High Tech had our hands full trying to pick slightly more than a dozen All Stars from New England each year.

The folks over at MIT’s Technology Review magazine got us beat, hands-down. This week they’re announcing their fourth class of the TR100, Technology Review’s list of the 100 top innovators under 35. Worldwide.

Editor-at-large Robert Buderi says the process takes all year, dozens of experts and judges, and this year attracted more than 700 nominees from around the globe.

“I’m always amazed at the breadth of incredible talent that’s out there,” Buderi told Mass High Tech. “You can’t look at these people and not feel a surge of hope. They’re tackling just about every problem you read about in the newspaper.”

The awards originated in 1999, when the magazine was marking its 100th anniversary, Buderi said. And he’s seen changes along the way.

For example, there are fewer millionaires on the list nowadays as opposed to the bubble heyday.

“In some sense the TR100 as a body is less sexy than three years ago,” he said. “But this could be more of the real deal.”

Just like the economy in general.

And there are some surprises too.

“The Internet (category) was still really strong, and there’s a lot happening there. When dust cleared from the hype, people said ‘Guess what? This is a revolution.’ ”

Nanotechnology has grown as well.

Buderi explained the process: From the 700 nominees, about 50 are tossed right off the bat. Researchers then investigate the remaining 650 or so, with two researchers for each nominee. The list is whittled to 240, and ranked 1-10, at which time it’s sent to the judges.

They do the same thing: two-on-one scrutiny, ranking, and pruning until there’s about 110 left. From there the editors take over, and the final 100 are picked.

This year’s awards will be the highlight of a two-day Emerging Technologies Conference Sept. 28-29. Speakers will include Tim Berners-Lee, Vinod Khosla, Craig Venter, Steve Wozniak, and Rick Wagoner, chairman of General Motors.

This year’s list includes 17 names from the Boston area.

Tim Gardner, 31, assistant professor, Boston University, who co-founded Cellicon Biotechnologies in Boston.

Shana Kelley, 34, assistant professor, Boston College, who co-founded San Diego’s GeneOhm Sciences.

Gloria Kolb, 32, Founder and president, Fossa Medical. Her Boston-based company has two devices on the market.

Vikram Sheel Kumar, 28, co-founder and CEO, Dimagi, which makes interactive software that motivates patients to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and AIDS.

David Liu, 31, associate professor, Harvard University, who is applying evolutionary principles to synthetic molecules by linking starting materials to DNA strands.

Vasilis Ntziachristos, 34, assistant professor, Harvard University. He facilitated noninvasive optical imaging of proteins and other molecules in the body — which could lead to ultraprecise diagnosis of cancer and other diseases — through his theories, software, and instruments.

Xiaowei Zhuang, 32, assistant professor, Harvard University. Peering into a microscope, she has filmed a single influenza virus infecting a cell. Eventually, this in-depth understanding of how viruses work will help researchers find entirely new ways of blocking viral infection.

Ari Juels, 34, principal research scientist, RSA Security, devised techniques at the Bedford firm to improve the security and privacy of radio frequency identification tags.

Wojciech Matusik, 31, visiting research scientist, Mitsubishi Electric, who creates 3-D television and related 3-D photo and video systems that weave together images from multiple cameras.

Ramesh Raskar, 34, visiting research scientist, Mitsubishi Electric, who built large computer display systems that seamlessly combine images from multiple projectors.

Sokwoo Rhee, 34, founder and chief technology officer, Millennial Net, has designed extremely low power wireless-sensor networks.

Simeon Simeonov, 31, principal, Polaris Venture Partners, has left software engineering to engineer startups.

Vladimir Bulovic, 34, associate professor, MIT. Bulovic uses organic and nanostructured semiconductors in devices such as light-emitting diodes, lasers, photodetectors, and chemical sensors. Startup companies have licensed many of his 30 U.S. patents.

Mayank Bulsara, 32, co-founder and chief technology officer, AmberWave Systems, developers of strained silicon.

Martin Culpepper, 32, assistant professor, MIT. His nanomanipulators are more flexible and offer higher performance than existing versions — at one-twentieth the cost.

Darrell Irvine, 31, assistant professor, MIT, crafts nanoparticles that would release chemicals inside the body to “program” immune cells to combat viral infections like HIV, to tolerate transplants, or even to destroy malignant tumors.

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