SPARK Competition Highlights Diverse Innovation at Brandeis

2016 campus winners announced

The 2016 SPARK Awards program, coordinated by the Brandeis Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) and sponsored by the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center (HFIC), is proud to announce that six teams from across Brandeis University have been awarded funding. The SPARK program, established in 2015, encourages the entrepreneurial spirit across the Brandeis community and engages students, faculty and staff members in pursuit of funding for innovative projects with a focus on social, educational or financial impact.

“Innovation is a natural occurrence on our campus,” said Rebecca Menapace, associate provost for innovation and executive director of both OTL and HFIC. “It’s important to us as a center that we provide access to SPARK seed funding and similar resources in order to further encourage this culture of entrepreneurial collaboration.” After sponsoring a series of trainings and mentorship meetings, the program received 24 original applications, 11 of which ultimately presented to a panel of industry judges.

This year’s winning proposals included:

Preparing for the Unfamiliar: An app for individuals with autism to prepare for doctor’s office visits (Heller)
Team Lead: Leah Igdalsky  
A technology-based solution to help improve the experience of doctor visits for individuals with autism from team lead Research Associate Leah Igdalsky’14, this mobile app harnesses the power of social stories, which are similar to visual guides, to inform patients about what to expect and how to interact with healthcare providers. Future plans include a feature that allows customization, ensuring the app’s usefulness across various medical practices.

Biotech Elements (Brandeis IBS)
Team Lead: Tomer Goldstein  
Brandeis International Business School (IBS) student Tomer Goldstein, MBA’16 and his partner, Eran Shriker of the Biotech Elements team, recognized the looming threat of climate change and developed an alternative energy source to reduce fossil fuel dependency. Having already developed a prototype, the team will use their award to scale up their technology and assess its feasibility.

Cleanfield Capital Partners (Brandeis IBS)
Team Lead: Debarshi Nandy  
This initiative will repurpose land that has been contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution for industrial or commercial purposes. The collective will reduce the liability risk of the entire portfolio via the implementation of an innovative new financial model. The resulting properties will be re-deployed into a combination of clean renewable energy, commercial and residential sites.

Mapping the human eye with Sclervey (Physics)
Team Lead: Hermann Wellenstein
Corneas can develop deformities that inhibit and eventually eliminate sight in many individuals. Hermann Wellenstein’s team will generate a prototype that can quickly map deformed corneas and digitize them to make custom lenses more easily accessible, restoring sight to those who have lost it due to these mutations.

Developing an Integrated Medical-Social-Legal Service Delivery System (Heller)
Team Lead: Rajan Sonik   
Using SPARK funding, Rajan Sonik’s team will create a system to detect the social and legal needs affecting the health of individual citizens of Vermont. It will provide coordinated services that integrate the medical, social, and legal aspects of health care to keep people informed of the rights and services available to them.

Discover Deis (Computer Science)
Team Lead: Ziyu Qiu  
Discover Deis is a mobile application to help those new to or visiting the Brandeis campus navigate it more easily. Providing turn-by-turn instructions and notable features of the campus environment, this app will provide valuable information on what goes on in each building and how to arrive at your intended destination.

To learn more about SPARK, past recipients and additional resources, visit  


About the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center

The Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center’s mission is to create a hub for campus-wide collaboration on a wide range of activities including new technologies, scientific breakthroughs, patenting and licensing. It also supports commercialization of faculty discoveries and research, corporate outreach to leading-edge firms as well as new education and employment opportunities for students. This partnership between Brandeis University’s Office of Technology Licensing and Brandeis International Business School was created in 2015 through funding from Hassenfeld Family Initiatives.

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