$20,000 Illinois Innovation Prize Winner Announced

4/29/2015 12:48:49 PM Preena Patel

URBANA, Ill. (April 24, 2015) – Today, the Technology Entrepreneur Center announced the winner for the Illinois Innovation Prize, which awards $20,000 to a student who stands out as a passionate innovator and entrepreneur, who is working with world changing technology and is seen as a role model for others. Each student was nominated by mentors, professors, or a faculty member on the basis of the nominees’ passion for innovation and work in technology.

Andreas C. Cangellaris, Dean of the College of Engineering, announced that this year, the prize would be divided among the 3 finalists, since all students were so impressive. Ritu Raman, PhD Candidate in Mechanical Science and Engineering was announced as the 2015 winner and awarded with $15,000. Ritu is focused on developing and commercializing 3D printing technologies for applications in biomedical engineering. Specifically, Ritu is interested in using 3D printing to manufacture biological building blocks, or BioBlocks. These BioBlocks can harness the innate abilities of biological materials to sense, process, and respond to a variety of dynamic environmental signals in real time. Such building blocks can be used to design bio-integrated machines, or BioBots, that can self-organize, self-heal, and self-replicate in response to a complex array of environmental cues. By crowd-sourcing the design rules and principles of building with biology in undergraduate classrooms, Ritu plans to use experiential learning and empirical discovery as a tool to train the next generation of makers, builders, and inventors.

The Illinois Innovation Prize runners-up were Ahmed Khurshid, awarded with $3,500 and Amy Doroff, awarded with $1,500. Ahmed Khurshid is a PhD Candidate in Computer Science working on research that is focused on improving security and availability of networked systems. He is developing tools to validate routing and security properties of a network using black-box analysis of network behavior. Amy Doroff is a senior in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering. During her role at John Deere, she worked on improving the process of installing lock collars during combine assembly.  Before she left, Amy led a team to design a brand new process and tool that decreased warranty claims, reduced safety and ergonomics issues, and allowed for process standardization internationally. 

Ritu Raman states, “I am truly honored and humbled to receive the Illinois Innovation Prize. The community we have built at this university is vibrant, entrepreneurial, and truly collaborative. It's the perfect environment for innovators to succeed, and I am proud to be a part of this legacy. I feel motivated and inspired to keep pursuing my work with BioBlocks, with the goal of teaching the next generation of makers, builders, and inventors to build with biology.”


The Illinois Innovation Prize, administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, is awarded on an annual basis to the most innovative student on campus. This year, TEC will reward and recognize the most innovative student on campus with $20,000. This student is a passionate innovator, working with world changing technology, entrepreneurially minded, and a role model for others.