Winning and finalist teams honored at Nayar Prize announcement

Mon Feb 11, 2019

Photo courtesy of Illinois Tech Office of Marketing and Communications


In an open event held on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 6, 2019, Illinois Tech made two important announcements regarding the two iterations of its one million dollar Nayar Prize. More specifically, it was announced that the Agent-Derive Early Photo Tomography (ADEPT) Cancer Imager team was the winner of the Nayar Prize I and its 1 million dollar reward while the Data-Driven Crime Prevention Program team was selected as the finalist for Nayar Prize II.

The Nayar Prize is a million dollar research prize package offered to Illinois Tech students, staff, and faculty to “develop breakthrough, innovative projects that will, within three years, produce meaningful results with a societal impact.” This prize was established by alumni and Board of Trustees member Madhavan Nayar (master of science in industrial engineering in 1968) in two different iterations Nayar Prizes I and II. As stated by the prize’s goals on its official webpage, it intends to challenge Illinois Tech members to pursue breakthrough research projects, unite with their fellow Illinois Tech members across different disciplines, and ultimately increase the recognition and visibility of the university.

This event was held at the Ed Kaplan Family Institute of Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship’s Victor Morgenstern Pitch and was open to all Illinois Tech students, staff, and faculty. Both President Alan Cramb and Provost Peter Kilpatrick were in attendance and delivered the opening remarks to the event, introducing both the winning teams as well as the Nayar Prize itself. Perhaps the most prevalent theme in both opening speeches was the impact the Nayar Prize had in uniting Illinois Tech community members towards the common goals of pursuing tangible research to better the world while elevating the status of Illinois Tech.

As Provost Kilpatrick reminded, Illinois Tech can be seen as having a long legacy of innovation, with university alumni bringing to the world creations such as the cell phone (Martin Cooper, who graduated with a master of science in electrical engineering in 1957) and Amazon Alexa (Rohit Prasad, who graduated with a master of science in electrical engineering in 1999). To this end, Kilpatrick remarked, the Nayar Prize represents a concerted effort to “galvanize faculty to think boldly” as their forerunners have before them and pursue research to both change the world and unite the institution.

The winning team of Nayar Prize I, the ADEPT Cancer Imaging team is led by Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kenneth Tichauer and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Jovan Brankov. Together, the two have been working together since 2015 to develop the proprietary system with the intent of detecting tumors in the lymph nodes of breast cancer patients. In their acceptance of the award at the event, both Tichauer and Brankov concluded that they fully intend on continuing their research, even after receiving their final $500,000 award (usable with no restrictions whatsoever at their own discretion).

For Nayar Prize II, the Data-Driven Crime Prevention Program team has been selected as the finalist. Just like the ADEPT Cancer Imaging team, this team must now meet a variety of criteria in order to be accepted for the final portion of the award. Led by Professor of Biomedical Engineering Miles Wernick, Distinguished Professor of Law Lori Andrews, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering Yongyi Yang, this team is looking to deisgn, implement, and deploy a model for U.S. crime prevention that both aids in predictive crime modeling and exemplifies a legal-ethical framework respecting privacy and community desires. Currently, the team is in partnership with the Elgin Police Department and will continue to operate in the hopes of winning the Nayar Prize II final award.

Near the end of the event, Nayar himself delivered some remarks on the prize in the form of two different confessions. The first was that the original name of the Nayar Prize was apparently 16 words long before the much shorter, current name was decided upon - a decision Nayar claims he had no part in. For this second confession, Nayar pointed to his personal tax advisor and accountant in the audience and stated that the entire prize was because of him. Explaining himself, Nayar told the story of how he once asked his accountant to “send a donation to IIT.” His accountant then responded by saying that he would go ahead and send a donation to ITT Technical Institute (a now-defunct, for-profit technical institute that has many times been confused with Illinois Tech due to the similar acronyms). It was this instance of name confusion that led Nayar to drive an effort to increase general awareness of Illinois Tech as its own institution an effort that would become the Nayar Prize.

More information on Nayar’s background with Illinois Tech can be found in the article “An interview with alumni and Board of Trustees member Madhavan Nayar” on page seven.


Photo courtesy of Illinois Tech Office of Marketing and Communications




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2019 - Spring - Issue 3