Princeton students, faculty, and research staff showcased their research and entrepreneurial projects virtually at the 15th annual Innovation Forum Sept. 29. The event, co-hosted by Princeton’s Keller Center and the Office of Technology & Licensing, is a competition focused on the commercialization of research, with $30,000 in awards.
PoreBiome, which offers an improved method for studying bacteria, won the first-place prize of $15,000.
“[F]or over 300 years, most lab studies have focused on microbes in all-liquid cultures or on 2-D flat plates, and as a result, there are discrepancies between what we measure in the lab and in natural habitats,” said Sujit Datta, co-developer of the PoreBiome and assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.
The PoreBiome, he said, “essentially is like a ball pit for cells” — a packing of transparent hydrogel balls that mimics a microbe’s natural environment better than traditional study methods while keeping it simple to understand what is happening in the system. “[PoreBiome] now enables researchers for the first time to be able to design their own microbial communities and interrogate how they behave in complex porous environments,” said Datta.
Topics covered in the sciences also included techniques to recycle lithium-ion batteries, potential treatments for hepatitis B and hepatitis E, and new methods to identify and manipulate facial characteristics like trustworthiness via computer vision technology.
This year’s Innovation Forum was planned in partnership with the Humanities Council and for the first time highlighted projects in the humanities and social sciences as well. One such project was Representable, which fights gerrymandering by collecting and aggregating data from local communities to inform district apportionment.
“We are creating a platform to collect, analyze, and share crowd-sourced community data to add more public input to democracy,” said co-founder Preeti Iyer ’20.
Individuals can use Representable to draw a map indicating where their community is located, and these maps can help redistricting commissions make their decisions.
“We want to give every community in the country not just a voice, but a map, so they can fight for fair representation,” said co-founder Kyle Barnes ’21.
Other humanities projects included using animation and graphic novels to focus public attention towards problems in the juvenile judicial system, creating an app to integrate poetry into everyday life, and reevaluating the study of Greco-Roman antiquity to create more inclusive communities.