Innovation Laboratory at Rutgers’ Honors College Teaches Students How to Bring Ideas to Life

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Mukesh M. Patel, a successful entrepreneur, mentor, business attorney and adjunct professor at Rutgers Business School and Rutgers School of Law who has helped many startup companies develop their business plans and raise significant equity funding, heads the Innovation Lab at the Honors College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He joined the college as its inaugural director of innovation this past summer.

The Honors College incorporated the Innovation Lab into its curriculum to enable students to collaborate across disciplines and tackle complex and global problems in tangible ways.

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Photo: Jeff Tolvin
Mukesh Patel, who has helped many startup companies develop their business plans, is the inaugural director of innovation of the Honors College.

The Honors College mission course, “the Forum,” challenges first-year students to come up with ideas for innovations that could solve societal issues and become sustainable, profitable ventures. Of the more than 100 ideas pitched last year, six advanced to become the focus for hands-on development in the Innovation Lab by second-year students.

Rutgers Today recently spoke with Patel about how the Innovation Lab is designed to work and the student projects in development.

What is the Innovation Lab?

Patel: First, it is a physical space where students of different disciplines and passions come together to develop their ideas. By its design, the lab avoids silos and breaks down boundaries. We call the process “design-thinking,” and it’s what occurs when teams work collaboratively on projects small or large. We have equipment, such as 3-D printers, mini-computers with a digital design studio, sensor lab, and other gadgetry to test hypotheses, create prototypes and minimally viable products (MVPs) and run pilot programs.

Conceptually, the lab represents how Honors College students learn critical skills vital to developing and bringing an idea to market. This includes how to recruit students from the university because of the expertise they could contribute, plus marketing, public relations and concept testing.

What are the projects under development in the Innovation Lab this year?

Patel: The projects include RFInD, a wearable electronic device programmed with personal medical information to help emergency health care providers find and treat patients in distress; eUse-IT, a system for collecting and repairing laptop computers to reduce electronic waste while making computer devices more accessible to lower-income demographics; Nutrivide, a device resembling a pacifier that provides nutrients to undernourished newborns; Oasis, a process for delivering nutritious food to needy communities and food deserts; Exalight, a specially-designed blanket to prevent neonatal jaundice and potentially treat certain skin conditions; and Merakhi, a Bluetooth and audio wearable tech device to help prevent sexual assault while providing education and empowerment in connection with rape and assault cultures.

Read more here.

Rutgers Law School Launches Project to Improve Homeowners’ Protections Nationwide

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No matter your opinion on the validity of global warming, the high frequency and high impact of recent natural disasters now more than ever raises homeowners’ need for good insurance coverage and full knowledge of what they are buying. And when disasters do strike, insurance companies need to deliver on the protection promised.

A comprehensive, national project being launched from Rutgers Law School’s Camden location, and in cooperation with United Policyholders, analyzes and recommends state laws to ensure that policyholders are receiving, and insurance companies are providing, essential protections. The project details key issues for insurance consumers in four categories: buying insurance, coverage, the claims process, and disaster victims.

According to Jay Feinman, a distinguished professor at Rutgers Law School and co-director of the Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility, based in Camden, there is a significant knowledge gap in how coverage differs nationwide. He says identifying and elaborating on what are essential protections can strengthen what is now a complicated and flawed process.

“Every state regulates insurance and insurance companies, but states differ dramatically in how much and what kind of regulation they provide for the benefit of policyholders,” says Feinman, who teaches insurance law, torts, and contract law in Camden. “The Essential Protections for Policyholders Project provides a roadmap that every state can follow in improving homeowners insurance. Giving consumers full, understandable information about insurance policies and insurance companies, providing minimum guarantees of protection, and requiring companies to act reasonably in paying claims leads to better products and fairer prices.”

The author of seven books, including Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don’t Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It (Portfolio/Penguin, 2010; Delden Press paperback, 2013) Feinman is adamant that consumers should have easily available and understandable information and tools for comparing coverage in insurance policies and about insurance companies’ claims practices.

What protections were considered essential for homeowners were selected by importance, based on decades of United Policyholders’ advising homeowners and Feinman’s longtime expertise on the insurance landscape, focusing on state legislation and regulation that concerns the relationship between homeowners and insurance companies.

Read more here.

Rutgers Receives $19 Million to Develop Drugs to Treat Chemical Weapons Attacks

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Rutgers University a five-year grant for more than $19 million for research that would lead to the development of drugs to treat toxicity from chemical agents used in a terrorist attack.

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The National Institutes of Health continued funding Rutgers research to develop drugs to treat the toxicity of chemical weapons in case of a terrorist attack with an adidtional $19 million.

The grant – which first received funding in 2006 and again in 2011 – provides scientists at Rutgers, New York Medical College and Lehigh University the funds they need to continue a decades-long collaboration, aimed at devising drug therapies to use if deadly chemical poisons were released into the general population. Over the course of this project, NIH has provided more than $60 million to these investigators for this research.

“Our preparedness in case of an attack in the United States and how you treat it is still of the utmost importance,” said Jeffrey Laskin, director of the Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence, a federal program pursuing medical countermeasures. “Another important issue is for our military, the warfighters who may be exposed to chemicals on the battlefield.”

The U.S. government wants researchers to develop drug products that would work as an antidote for individuals exposed to mustard gas, a chemical weapon banned under the 1925 Geneva protocol. First used by the German military against Allied troops in World War I and in subsequent wars including the Iran-Iraq conflict during the 1980s, symptoms range from skin irritations and conjunctivitis to severe ulcerations, blistering of the skin, blindness and irreversible damage to the respiratory tract.

More recently, The Islamic State used chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard gas agents at least 52 times since 2014 on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, according to a London-based intelligence collection and analysis service.  News reports have indicated that ISIS militants have also loaded the gas into artillery shells and fired on people living in small villages miles away.

“Many people don’t think of mustard gas anymore,” said Laskin, professor of environmental and occupational health at Rutgers University School of Public Health and the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI). “But more than 100 years after it was used in World War I, it is still being used in Syria. It remains a great concern to both public health officials and the military.”

Read more here.

Thousands Expected to Participate in Second Annual Rutgers Giving Day

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On Nov. 29 Rutgers alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends will come together in the spirit of giving for the second annual Rutgers Giving Day. Last year through Rutgers Giving Day, the university community raised more than $1.25 million with the support of 4,766 donors. This year, the university aims to surpass last year’s total in both dollars and donors.

Community members will paint the day scarlet by supporting their favorite Rutgers causes and by inspiring others to join them. Participants can:

  • Make a gift to their favorite Rutgers cause and get real-time results at GivingDay.Rutgers.edu.
  • Spread the word on social media by using #RUGivingDay. Help your favorite Rutgers cause earn additional support by participating in social media challenges throughout the day.
  • Attend on-campus events in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick.

The impact of Rutgers Giving Day 2015 was felt across university locations and around the world, and this year’s event is expected to draw even more support for Rutgers units and programs in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick, and at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

In 2015, the units and schools of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences raised nearly $180,000 from more than 1,100 gifts. Mike Nicolaro, a senior majoring in biology, can testify to the impact of private giving – on Rutgers Giving Day and throughout the year. As a cancer survivor who received treatment at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, he benefited from donor support.

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Generation X at Greater Risk of Stroke Than Baby Boomers, Rutgers Study Finds

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Older baby boomers—those born between 1945 and 1954—can proudly boast a new label: the “stroke-healthiest generation,” according to a Rutgers study that found the lowest incidence of ischemic stroke in this age group within the past 20 years. In contrast, the rate of stroke more than doubled among Generation X, people born between 1965 and 1974, during the same time period.

The study was published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

“The incidence of stroke has decreased significantly overall since 1950, due to the advancement of medicine,” said Joel N. Swerdel, lead author of the study conducted at the Cardiovascular Institute of New Jersey at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “However, we found that trend to be reversing in younger generations where obesity and diabetes are likely causing an increase in cardiovascular disease.”

Swerdel, who is now manager of epidemiology analytics at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Titusville, N.J., conducted the research under the guidance of John B. Kostis, the John G. Detwiler Professor of Cardiology and director of the Cardiovascular Institute of New Jersey. Data from the study was derived from the Myocardial Infarction Data Acquisition System (MIDAS), a statewide database of all admissions to non-federal hospitals in New Jersey for up to 30 years that was developed and is maintained by the institute.

The researchers analyzed more than 225,000 records of stroke data between 1995 and 2014, separated into five groups, each with a 10-year age span. The analyses found that persons born in the 20 years before 1945 and those born in the 20 years after 1954 had higher risks of stroke. Only the group who are now between 60 and 70 years of age saw a reduction in the incidence of stroke during the range of years included in the study.

“A higher incidence of stroke in individuals born before 1945 was not surprising, as they did not benefit from the availability of lipid-lowering drugs, such as statins and anti-hypertensive therapy, as did younger generations,” said Kostis, the principal investigator of the study. “However, the increasing incidence of stroke in the youngest generation—those who are between the ages of 35 and 50—is alarming and merits further research.”

Read more here.

Winners of 2016 Business Plan Competition Ready to Launch Product

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When Jon Roberts and Stephanie Charles, the partners behind Charles Roberts LLC, won the 2016 business plan competition at Rutgers Business School, it provided a huge boost to the launch of their first product.

The partners spent some of the $20,000 prize money to improve their dri-sound premium headphone covers, which are specifically designed to protect pricey headphones from damage without diminishing the look or quality of the devices.

Roberts, an alumnus of the Rutgers Part-Time MBA program, and Charles spent the summer working with a manufacturer to carry out product testing to refine the silicone headphone covers. One of their goals was also to reduce the production costs. Now, they’re preparing for the headphone covers to hit the market in early winter.

Charles and Roberts were colleagues working in the financial industry when they first met and eventually they worked on a project in Hong Kong that required close client interaction and long days to accommodate global time zones. “We realized we both wanted to do things outside Corporate America,” Roberts said, recalling their initial conversations about the idea of creating a start-up.

After a year of discussions, they decided to partner up around the idea of the headphone covers. While continuing to work full-time jobs, they began their entrepreneurial venture, which included securing patents, creating prototypes, attending first-time inventor conferences and entering the annual Rutgers Business Plan competition.

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‘Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History’ Brings University’s Untold Story Out of the Shadows

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Rutgers University released the findings of eight months of research that reveal an untold history of some of the institution’s founders as slave owners and the displacement of the Native Americans who once occupied land that was later transferred to the college.

The work, contained in the book Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, brings out of the shadows the story of Will, a slave who laid the foundation of Old Queens. The research, which spans the mid-18th through mid-19th centuries, also reveals that abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth and her parents were owned by the family of Rutgers’ first president Jacob Hardenbergh.

The project was the result of an initiative by Rutgers University-New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards. In the fall of 2015, Edwards appointed the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, which grew out of a meeting with a group of students concerned about improving the racial and cultural climate on campus.

“This work shows that we are not afraid to look at ourselves and our early history,” Edwards said. “We are a large public university that is one of the most diverse in the country and we think we need to understand our history and not be ashamed of it, but to be able to face it in a forthright way.”

Read more here.

High School Students Explore Careers in Health Care Through Rutgers Program

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For as long as he can remember, Faizan Munshi dreamed of a career in health care. “I wanted to devote my life to improving people’s wellbeing,” he says. “But since no one in my family worked in medicine, I had no idea what that exactly entailed.”

Then in the eighth grade, Munshi attended a presentation by the Rutgers School of Health Professions (SHP) about its Careers in Health Sciences Program and saw his opportunity. The program, which was being offered at the Morris County School of Technology near where he lived, would allow him to explore specialties in the health field and earn college credit there during his high school years.

“No other school in my area offered courses in health care. I was intrigued because it would allow me to get a real idea of what pursuing a career in medicine would be like before I made a commitment to studies in college,” says the Mount Olive resident.

Over the next four years, Munshi studied subjects such as medical terminology, nutrition, anatomy and physiology. He also worked in a clinical setting, shadowing a physician who eventually became his mentor. “The program was an eye-opening experience that allowed me the opportunity to explore a variety of specialties,” he says.

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Asteroid Impacts Could Create Habitats for Life

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An international team of 38 scientists, including Rutgers’ Sonia Tikoo, has shown how large asteroid impacts deform rocks and possibly create habitats for early life on Earth and elsewhere.

Around 65 million years ago, a massive asteroid crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, causing an impact so huge that the blast and its aftermath wiped out about 75 percent of all life on Earth, including most of the dinosaurs. It’s known as the Chicxulub impact.

In April and May, scientists on an offshore expedition drilled deep into part of the Chicxulub impact crater. Their mission was to retrieve samples from the rocky inner ridges of the crater – known as the “peak ring” – drilling about 1,600 to 4,380 feet below the modern-day sea floor to learn more about the ancient cataclysmic event.

Now, the researchers have performed the first analysis of the core samples in a study published online today in the journal Science. They found that the impact deformed the peak ring rocks, making them more porous and less dense than models had predicted.

“Chicxulub crater is the only crater on Earth that has such a well-preserved peak ring and since we can’t get samples of peak rings from other planets yet, it’s really our best window into understanding the formation of large impact basins anywhere in the solar system,” said Tikoo, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. “We really didn’t know the exact physical mechanisms behind how peak ring craters form until this study.”

Read more here.