Celebrating UW Black innovators

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / February 18, 2022

In celebration of Black History Month, CoMotion is proud to recognize these UW researchers who are advancing important innovations in chemical engineering, environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering. Drs. Carothers, Ray, and Olanrewaju were recently awarded CoMotion Innovation Gap Funds, which help bridge the gap between the conclusion of academic research grants and the level of development where their innovations can attract seed-stage private investment. They were also honored in Cell Mentor’s list of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists, published in December 2020.

James Carothers

Associate Professor, UW Department of Chemical Engineering and member of the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute (MolES) and UW Center for Synthetic Biology (CSB)

Dr. Carothers’ research group centers around RNA synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. His team won a CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund award in fall 2020 for for a new RNA biosensor screening technology for detecting highly productive microbes one million times faster than conventional approaches. The technology is being commercialized by Wayfinder Biosciences, a venture-backed startup co-founded by Ph.D. graduates from the Carothers group.

Jessica Ray

Assistant Professor, UW Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Dr. Ray’s team won a CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund award in fall 2020 for a used coffee ground biochar that helps utility and municipal stormwater management leads improve urban stormwater quality, meet environmental regulatory demands, and protect human and ecological health by leveraging an abundant food waste. Ray is committed to nurturing an inclusive, diverse, and anti-racist environment within her research group and department.

Ayokunle Olanrewaju

Assistant Professor, UW Departments of Mechanical Engineering & Bioengineering

Dr. Olanrewaju is developing point-of-care diagnostics for therapeutic monitoring and precision dosing to treat infectious and chronic diseases. His team received a CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund award in fall 2019 to support the development of a rapid test that monitors medication levels, in an effort to reduce the impact and spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Read more about UW’s commitment to creating a present and a future grounded in equity and inclusion in President Cauce’s blog post from Feb. 14.