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Grad Student Wins Inventiveness Prize

By Kristen Landino

Daniel J. DiLorenzo G is the recipient of this year's Lemelson-MIT Program $30,000 student prize for inventiveness.

DiLorenzo, a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, won the award based on his commitment to the research and development of innovations in the health sciences and for his record of creating new devices and technologies in this field.

"It is a distinct honor to have been selected by the Lemelson-MIT Program as a role model for inventiveness. I have been very fortunate to have had many exceptional mentors and advisers, and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as a role model for the next generation," DiLorenzo said.

Beginning in 1995, Jerome H. Lemelson, and his wife Dorothy, established the Lemelson-MIT awards program at MIT to recognize and reward outstanding inventors and innovators within the MIT student body in the hope of encouraging more young people to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology, and entrepreneurship.

The judging panel responsible for selecting the winner consists of MIT alumni who are successful scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

DiLorenzo fuses several interests

DiLorenzo is also an M.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences. He earned his bachelor and master's degrees in the field of electrical engineering from MIT.

DiLorenzo holds two patents and has two more pending. One of his patented inventions includes a device to control intraoperative brain swelling.

He has also developed an implantable device that electrically stimulates a peripheral nerve to provide sensation from an artificial limb.

DiLorenzo describes his success in the fields of medical research and technological innovation as "a synergy between two interests I've always wanted to be a doctor since I was very young, and I also love building things."

Early in his childhood, DiLorenzo began to build circuits, robots, and elaborate electronic devices.

In fifth grade he built his first circuit, and in tenth grade he created a robot compatible with high magnetic fields to be used for military experiments.

Currently, DiLorenzo is working to understand how the brain controls movement of the arm. He hopes to utilize his background in robotics and electrical engineering to develop new devices which help patients with neurological damage or disease.

"I would like to develop systems which restore function to people who are paralyzed; it would be immensely rewarding. There are also a number of other neurological diseases which may be amenable to treatment with neural modulation and neural augmentation systems, including Parkinson's Disease, epilepsy, pain artificial limb communication, and others which may become treatable with emerging technologies."

DiLorenzo intends to become an academic neurosurgeon and will be attending the University of Utah, a leading research center in the area of implantable microelectrodes and neural prostheses in July 1999.

DiLorenzo praises the goal of the MIT-Lemelson Program: "Its mission to emphasize the role of science and technology in society is well-founded. Children especially need to have more role models in these areas."