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Photo of Arlyne Simon presenting at the Collegiate Inventor Competition
Huffington Post: What Collegiate Female Inventors Want You to Know
570 427 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

Feeling like a true 21st century worker, as I telecommute from my home office — my left hand holding an earl grey latte from an indie coffee shop, my right hand closing the tab of a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout.

The Hangout, “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something,” was infused with President Obama’s challenge for Americans to be “the makers of things, not just consumers of things.”

In thinking about what it means to grow a generation of makers, a simple and energetic statement I heard last week while interviewing finalists in the Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) came straight to mind. In response to being asked to share her thoughts with young girls on the topic of engaging in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs, one female engineering undergraduate shared, “It’s essentially arts and crafts, but so much cooler… it’s so much more useful.”

I recognize that this analogy may make some scientists and engineers (and/or paper mâché enthusiasts) cringe a little, but it is a user-friendly message to share with the average 8-year-old girl who has likely had more experiences with clay, glue sticks and markers than with petri dishes, digital calipers and 3D printers. (Though that is likely to soon change.)

Here are a few more messages from the female CIC finalists that came through loud and clear:

Don’t Touch That Bar!

These inventors stated that they do not want the bar to be raised or lowered, in regard to expectations around their performance in the field of STEM. They do not want to be held to a different standard (by themselves or others) than their male counterparts.

CIC graduate finalist from University of Michigan, Arlyne Simon, recounts:

As a woman or minority in science and engineering , perhaps in the beginning you may feel a little bit intimidated…At first you may think, maybe you’re just lucky. But then you realize, maybe through your parents and your peers that you’re not lucky—you did this through hard work and you persevered and you succeeded, so you deserve to be there just as much as they do.”

The Nature of STEM, Nurtured

Children are natural STEM-thinkers. They give us every opportunity to make enriched STEM learning an organic and enjoyable part of their lives.

CIC finalist from University of Utah (and third-prize-winning undergraduate team member), Jessica Kuhlman, recalls,

…trying to build a sand castle right next to the waters’ edge and it always falling when the waves would come. I really wanted the castle to have water flowing around it so I had to build up the sand nice and thick near the water so that I could still achieve the flowing water that I wanted.”

Stella Latscha, CIC undergraduate finalist from University of Pennsylvania, links back to middle school, stating that she

…had a sixth grade math teacher who really loved math puzzles and she’d give them to us and my parents both really encouraged me. They didn’t tell me that I was doing well because it was really hard. They just said, (uses casual voice) ‘oh yeah, that was awesome.’ They didn’t intimidate me and I think that led me down this path.”

STEM Is Inescapable (in a Good Way)

“…everyone should have some handle on STEM. It is where the world is going. There is no one that should not be good at it,” says CIC finalist from Johns Hopkins (and first-prize-winning undergraduate team member), Sandya Subramanian.

STEM is seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. It is the products we use, the technologies we engage with, and the planet we all walk upon. Our interactions with STEM are multifaceted and complex and we must all individually navigate the degree to which we make that relationship explicit.

World Changing

“…as engineers, we study the way that the world works, but also how we want the world to work,” shares Elizabeth Beattie, a CIC undergraduate finalist from University of Pennsylvania and former Camp Invention participant. The collegiate inventors alluded to STEM as an empowering vehicle they are using to change lives (including their own).

Erica Skerrett, CIC undergraduate finalist from Rice University, conveys what it was like to see the expression of excitement on the face of a Malawian pediatrician to whom she was describing her team’s invention. “It’s incredibly rewarding. I always wanted to have a job that would help people. I also wanted a job, of course that I found interesting. Biomedical engineering is a perfect field for me.”

More Than STEM

Several of the collegiate inventors wanted it to be known that STEM students are “regular people,” as they gave examples of going out, having boyfriends and girlfriends, and playing sports.

Lauren Davis, CIC undergraduate finalist from University of Pennsylvania, recounts a story of a volleyball teammate’s mother asking her, “…so, what are you going to quit first: engineering or volleyball?” From that moment forward, Lauren decided:

I’m going to do them both. I’m going to do them for four years. I’m going to get it done. I just look at it as such a challenge, to kind of break into this field and prove everyone wrong. You just can’t let anything small, any failure, anyone telling you no, stop you from doing that.”

Once the country has readjusted its manufacturing bar to respond to the president’s challenge to be “makers of things,” be sure to leave it exactly where it is for our nation’s next generation of female inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. They are ready to take on the challenges that face them and “get it done.”

The article was originally published at

600 400 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

University of Michigan spin-out PHASIQ is looking to bring its new research instrument to a life sciences lab near you in the not-too-distant future.

The Ann Arbor-based startup’s technology genesis came from research developed by Shuichi Takayama and Arlyne Simon at U-M. The 1-year-old company instrument “provides an ultra-specific diagnostic platform for detecting protein biomarkers in biological samples,” according to its company description at this fall’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, where the startup made the semifinals. It offers “the most stringent quality custom assays to pharmaceutical companies for drug and biomarker discovery, advancing personalized medicine.”

PHASIQ’s instruments are currently being used by clinical researchers at the University of Michigan. The company is still tweaking the instrument’s design to streamline its operation.

“We’re trying to change it so anyone can use it,” Takayama says. “We want to make it simple.”

A $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant is currently funding the development of PHASIQ’s technology by the startup’s core team of four people. The company is aiming to commercialize the instrument midway through next year and is currently working to raise a round of seed capital to make that happen.

“We anticipate we will need at least $2 million by 2014,” Simon says.

The article was originally published at

Photo of Arlyne Simon presenting at the Collegiate Inventor Competition
Collegiate Inventor Pitch
1024 550 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

This invention is a diagnostic platform that can detect graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in patients who underwent bone marrow transplantation. The test uses aqueous two-phase system microdroplets to inherently prevent false positive signals, enabling accurate quantification of GVHD protein biomarkers in minute biological samples.

2013 Collegiate Inventors Competition Finalist
819 1024 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

Invent Now, Inc. and the National Inventors Hall of Fame are pleased to announce the 2013 finalists of the Collegiate Inventors Competition. The annual competition, sponsored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and AbbVie Foundation, recognizes undergraduate and graduate students for their outstanding work and achievements in the fields of science, engineering and technology. With inventions as diverse as a next-generation cancer chemotherapy patch and an improved technique for converting seawater to usable water, this year’s finalists will undoubtedly change the future of our world with their innovative creativity and entrepreneurial aspirations.

“These students epitomize what it means to achieve great things,” says judge and National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera. “As an Inductee, I find it an honor to have the opportunity to be able evaluate their work and learn from the teamwork they demonstrate. My fellow judges and I look forward to meeting all of the finalists and experiencing their enthusiasm as they propose novel solutions to important issues facing our society.”

The finalists will travel to Alexandria, Va., to present their inventions on November 11 to an esteemed panel of judges, which includes Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The winners will be announced on November 12 at an event taking place at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria. The top undergraduate winner will receive $12,500 and the top graduate winner will receive $15,000. Second and third place winners will also be recognized with cash prizes.

The 2013 finalists are:

Arlyne Simon
University of Michigan
Highly Accurate, No-Wash, Bioassay for Multiplexed Detection of Plasma Proteins

The article was originally published at