years, Marcus has been promoted twice to his current position and looks to a future in engineering that surprises even him.
Dr. Omowunmi Sadik, 42: Dr. Omowunmi Sadik is developing a product that could eventually put drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs out of business.
Using a combination of lab-developed polymers and specially designed software, Sadik has created an “electronic nose” that uses microelectrode biosensors to mimic the way mammals detect odor, thus allowing the e-nose to monitor scents and detect illicit drugs and chemicals.
“The way we recognize the smell of coffee is that the odor molecules are mixed with binding protein in the mucous [membrane], which carries them to the receptors, which trigger information sent to the brain,” says Sadik. The next time you smell coffee, the brain recognizes it because the information had already been transmitted.
“We pre-design polymers to sense a particular molecule in certain odors, drugs, or pathogens; we pre-design them to sense a particular molecule,” explains Sadik, 42, a chemistry professor at Binghamton University and director of the Center for Advanced Sensors & Environmental Systems.
“Biosensors are trained using the same software, so we end up with a database of different things that could be sensed, the way we store data in our brain.
With $1 million in funding from the Department of Defense, Sadik, who is originally from Nigeria, is currently working on scaling down the biosensor to a smaller, wearable, size.
Sadik has also developed a DNA sensor that detects and monitors enzyme activity in the body. Those sensors can provide information about the development of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. They also monitor cell activity and detect abnormal growths long before symptoms-such as a lump in the breast-become evident. “It can provide information on the initiation of cancer, so that very early, we can detect how cells are responding to drugs,” she says. Early detection helps determine treatment, not cell response.
Glory Dolphin, 31: Glory Dolphin’s college project was so cool, Swiss-based IQAir Group formed an entire company around it and four years later named her CEO of the company’s North American division. Dolphin developed the HealthPro Plus as her senior thesis while a business student at the University of Southern California. The device is now considered the only air filtration equipment powerful enough to be used in the fight against SARS. The company has developed 13 different product lines, including room air cleaners, air quality testing equipment and particle counters.
In 2003, IQAir inked a $20 million deal with the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, allowing the company to reengineer the hospitals’ air handling systems, a move detrimental in the prevention of cross-contamination, particularly in halting the spread of the deadly SARS virus. The deal covers 43 public hospitals, 47 specialist outpatient clinics, and 13 general outpatient clinics in Hong Kong and is significant since most reported SARS cases are among healthcare workers. IQAir brings the same kinds of products to the home environment. When ABC’s Extreme Makeover needs to create a clean environment for the show’s makeover candidates, they