Students and faculty recognized by WiSys for innovation

Dr. Gokul Gopalakrishnan and students
September 18, 2018
Dr. Gokul Gopalakrishnan, pictured above working with students on research in 2017, was presented the 2018 Innovator of the Year Award for his history of engagement with WiSys programs and supporting a culture of innovation at UW-Platteville.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Platteville proved itself a leader in innovation at the recent 11th annual Wisconsin Science and Technology Symposium, WSTS 2018. Dr. Gokul Gopalakrishnan earned Innovator of the Year, and several students took part in the event, showcasing their creative work.  UW-Platteville  was first in disclosures submitted to WiSys in 2017-18.

Hosted by the WiSys Technology Foundation, the annual symposium presents a networking opportunity for researchers, students and industry professionals in the UW System to share ideas in Wisconsin. 

“The number of UW-Platteville student submissions is a result of our Prototype Hackathon and how it has continued to get better over the past three years,” said Gopalakrishnan, assistant professor of engineering physics. “All of the students work on such interesting projects for this event, and I thought that this is an event that we should continue to foster and expand. The quality of work that students are doing in this program is continuing to improve all the time.”

Gopalakrishnan was selected for the Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year award because of two patent applications submitted through WiSys, his history of engagement with WiSys programs and supporting a culture of innovation at UW-Platteville. Gopalakrishnan planned and coordinated both the Prototype Hackathon and Innovation Mixer events at the university, and he contributed to the 2017 WSTS as a member of the planning committee. 

“When I moved to UW-Platteville from being a researcher at UW-Madison, I envisioned how to design a research program that can be effective with undergraduates rather than graduate students and postdoctoral researchers,” Gopalakrishnan said. “In science and engineering, there are always interesting problems to be found in different areas and at all levels of inquiry. Working with WiSys over the past few years has widened my ability to ask and answer the question ‘what will this research be good for?’”

Several students contributed to UW-Platteville’s success at the symposium this year. Caleb Dykema, a senior mechanical engineering major, was one of the event’s invited speakers. The Allenton, Wisconsin native was invited by Jennifer Cook, the associate director of WiSys, to demonstrate his product after he placed second in the Prototype Hackathon this past May. He calls his product 1Swipe, an eraser on tracks which spans the height of a classroom whiteboard and erases everything at once when pushed across. 

“The idea of 1Swipe came to me while sitting in class one day,” Dykema said. “The professor filled up the whiteboard with writing and spent what felt like 10 minutes erasing it before continuing on with the subject matter. He used a small, handheld eraser. Why use a tiny eraser to clean such a large surface? That is when I decided to research and create a solution to the problem.”

Trevor Wavrunek, a junior engineering physics major from Denmark, Wisconsin, works in the Nanomaterials lab with Gopalakrishnan. He presented a poster on the investigation of a First Contact Polymer and its ability to clean surfaces with micro-scale textures that were created by standard microfabrication techniques. He also tested the ability of the polymer in various roles that are normally performed using flammable and toxic solvents. 

“This event was a great opportunity to gain skills with communicating technical topics, as well as an excellent way to network with people who share similar interests,” Wavrunek said. 

Michael Schneider, a senior studying forensic criminology from Stratford, Wisconsin, collaborated with Wavrunek on a related project, mentored by Dr. Mark Levenstein from the Biology Department. Schneider’s poster was awarded most commercially relevant and best overall. His project includes testing if First Contact Polymercan successfully remove bacteria from various surfaces with the eventual goal of sterilizing equipment used in future interplanetary missions. 

“It is really rewarding to interact with the students and to see them have the opportunity to go out and hone their soft skills through these presentations,” Gopalakrishnan said. “It doesn’t matter if you are going on to graduate school or if you are going right into the industry. Motivated students will still work on research projects because they see the professional value that can be gained from these opportunities.”


Written by: Dalton Miles, Student Writer, Communications, 608-342-1194,


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