Brown University School of Engineering

Brown University, CMU, UPenn, Yale, and Choate Rosemary Hall to Participate in Rothberg Catalyzer Initiative

February 28, 2018
Rothberg Catalyzer

Assistant Professor David Borton (standing) leads an information session for students interested in participating in the Rothberg Catalyzer initiative.

Credit: Beth James

Brown University and four other schools have received a gift from Dr. Jonathan Rothberg to launch the Rothberg Catalyzer initiative. An American scientist and entrepreneur who invented high-speed, “Next-Gen” DNA sequencing, Rothberg is a National Medal of Technology and Innovation awardee and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Rothberg Catalyzer initiative at Brown will enable teams of students, mentored by clinical experts and entrepreneurs to engage in neuroengineering research over the course of a semester. At the conclusion of the spring semester, finalist teams from Brown University, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall will later take part in a program-wide Rothberg Catalyzer competition.

Jonathan Rothberg received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2016.Jonathan Rothberg received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2016.

“Student researchers can approach challenges with an unencumbered mindset; they don’t know what can’t be done. This competition provides an opportunity for students to develop leadership skills, engage real world problems, and continue to build their confidence that they can shape the world around them.” said Rothberg.

Project teams will be encouraged to work as entrepreneurs to advance technologies for medical devices, create innovations, and translate their ideas into solutions within neuroengineering. Prizes will be awarded to the top teams at the end of the semester program-wide competition.

“The confluence of highly capable and motivated undergraduate students, existing targeted research in brain function, and the interest of the Rothberg Foundation in deciphering epilepsy makes Brown a particularly desirable location to host Catalyzer activities,” said Larry Larson, Sorensen Family Dean of Engineering. The Brown Rothberg Catalyzer will be a joint effort between the School of Engineering and the Brown Institute for Brain Science, and ties seamlessly with the partnership between these two entities to foster innovations in neuroengineering research and application. Participants will also capitalize on the programming and other resources available at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship.

The competition provides an opportunity for students to engage with their peers and share ideas and inspiration. This is a multiyear, multi-school competition, and is designed to leverage the best practices from each school in subsequent years.

“This is a chance for our best and brightest students to build and invent things that will save lives. We hope it will help them discover a lifelong passion,” said David Borton, assistant professor of engineering, faculty affiliate in the Brown Institute for Brain Science, and the program lead at Brown University.

Selection for the Brown Rothberg Catalyzer teams is taking place through February, and the teams chosen will initiate their research projects by March and advance their work through May, and prepare for the end of semester final competition. There will be an interdisciplinary group of faculty advisors mentoring and advising the students in their research. Advisors will host students in their laboratory and provide access to equipment and guidance on research approaches.

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For further information on the Rothberg Catalyzer competition, please contact Assistant Professor David Borton, program lead for Brown University, at daborton@brown.edu.