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Creating a culture of discovery

10 innovators to watch


INNOVATOR: Ermir Bejo, doctoral student

FIELD: Music

ADMIRES: Too many people to name one.

INNOVATION: Musical composition. Bejo composed Opus 4 for solo piano, earning the prestigious ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer award.

WHAT’S NEXT: Apply for a postdoctoral program and teach.


INNOVATOR: Erica Doty, senior

FIELD: Mechanical engineering

ADMIRES: Mom, who taught her a great work ethic.

INNOVATION: Motorcycle parts. As an intern at the Harley-Davidson headquarters, Doty helped design parts with an eye for function and style.

WHAT’S NEXT: Work in the airspace industry on military aircraft, rockets and missiles.


INNOVATOR: Megan Fitch, master’s student

FIELD: Biological sciences

ADMIRES: Amie Lund, assistant professor of biological sciences, an academic visionary who played an integral part in her project.

INNOVATION: Air pollution and health. In her thesis, Fitch finds compelling evidence to suggest that wood smoke and vehicle exhaust affect intestinal bacteria and overall health.

WHAT’S NEXT: Pursue a Ph.D. at Trinity College in Ireland or go directly into her field work in environmental science.


INNOVATOR: Prateek Kalakuntla, second-year TAMS student

FIELD: Chemistry

ADMIRES: Other finalists in the Siemens Math, Science and Technology competition.

INNOVATION: Sensing mercury. Kalakuntla developed methods for sensing and removing mercury and other toxic heavy metals from water.

WHAT’S NEXT: Conduct biomedical research and has applied to several schools such as Stanford to do so.


INNOVATOR: Jennifer Horner Miller, doctoral student

FIELD: Learning technologies

ADMIRES: Leaders and scholars who encourage originality, creativity, cooperation, hard work and determination.

INNOVATION: Social media connections. Miller led multiple NASA Makerspace and social media events around the nation and is interested in connecting K-12 educators and students across the nation via social media platforms.

WHAT’S NEXT: Continue research exploring Makerspace activities and the perceptions of integrating technologies with science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.


INNOVATOR: Obi Ogbanufe, doctoral student

FIELD: Information technology and decision sciences

ADMIRES: Dan Kim, professor of information technology and decision sciences, who challenges her to be a better researcher.

INNOVATION: Security risk management and information assurance. Ogbanufe is researching tools to help manage the risks online.

WHAT’S NEXT: Continue research work and teach.


INNOVATOR: Jonathan Roosa, junior

FIELD: Computer science

ADMIRES: Mark Thompson, lecturer of computer science and engineering.

INNOVATION: Web application. Living out a dream to help advance space exploration, Roosa developed an application to help NASA track maintenance and operations projects for the International Space Station.



INNOVATOR: Jacob Sampson, senior

FIELD: Radio, television and film

ADMIRES: Andrew B. Harris, professor of theater, has given him a lot of attention to his work, as well as motivation.

INNOVATION: Play writing. Sampson presented his play, The Essay, to theater faculty half-way around the world during a two-week residency at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic.

WHAT’S NEXT: Continue writing for theater and eventually pursue writing for television and movies.


INNOVATOR: Nydia Sánchez, doctoral student

FIELD: Higher education

ADMIRE: Mother, because she helped all five children go to college, despite never having gone to college herself.

INNOVATION: Cultivating a “college-going culture.” By studying the Gates Millenium Scholars Program along the U.S.-Mexico border, Sánchez is documenting how students, families and educators can work together to encourage higher education.

WHAT’S NEXT: Begin a post-doctoral research fellowship with the goal of becoming a faculty member.


INNOVATOR: Jack Zhang, second-year TAMS student

FIELD: Application development

ADMIRES: Dad, because he’s really wise and always knows how to fix problems.

INNOVATION: Student success. In creating Skybound Prep, Zhang has provided access to quality and affordable SAT tutoring.

WHAT’S NEXT: Continue studies in computer science and business administration at the University of California, Berkley.