Undergraduate winner Wei Gu, 21, has found a way to microscopically control small amounts of liquid, for anything from medical purposes to chemical analysis. He has created a simple but robust machine that acts as a miniature plumbing system, complete with microscopic pumps, valves, pipes, and mixing chambers. He employs a piece of rubber in which he has made tunnels using molding and lithographic techniques, then places it on top of a portable Braille display which features small metal pins that rise and fall to create Braille letters. Gu discovered that the small amount of pressure exerted by the pins can clamp internal tunnels shut. By creating a computer program that can vary the patterns of applied pressure, his device can pump, mix, and shut off flow. A native of Ann Arbor, Gu is a senior chemical engineering major at the University of Michigan. His advisor, Dr. Shuichi Takayama, receives a $5,000 prize.
Graduate winners Jwa-Min Nam, 30, and Shad Thaxton, 28, of Northwestern University have worked to create what they call "bio barcode amplified detection systems." The process has a simple goal: to find miniscule amounts of microscopic biological materials. Because their invention is so much more sensitive and precise than previous types of tests, it could be used to detect chemical signs of Alzheimer's disease, Mad Cow Disease, or types of cancer far earlier than conventional tests. Their advisor on this project is Dr. Chad Mirkin, who receives a $5,000 prize.