Utah to Honor Top Science and Tech Innovators at Annual Gala

Pete CodellaNews

The Beehive State has recently stolen the national spotlight as an impressive innovation hub, and it’s time once again to recognize the stars. Governor Gary R. Herbert, along with the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative and Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), announced today the 2014 winners of the Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology.

The Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology are awarded to residents and companies who have provided distinguished service or made significant contributions to Utah’s advanced scientific and technological knowledge, education and industry.

STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—is quickly becoming a familiar acronym associated with staying on the cutting edge of economic growth. Utah is no stranger to STEM education and innovation.

“Workforce development and STEM education are top priorities in the state for sustaining future economic growth,” said Gov. Herbert. “I am pleased to highlight the efforts of these innovative leaders and am grateful to see that our future workforce has the best of the best role models to inspire them.”
Medals are awarded in fields of academia, education and industry— plus one special recognition this year. This year’s recipients are:

● Dr. Phyllis Coley, professor of biology at the University of Utah. Dr. Coley is a world leader in tropical biology and has pioneered a bioprospecting approach that enhances drug discovery as well as rainforest conservation.
● Dr. Erik Jorgensen, professor of biology at the University of Utah. Dr. Jorgensen has conducted ground-breaking work in genetics and neuroscience.

● Dr. Christine Fogarty Celestino, Juan Diego Catholic High School. Dr. Celestino developed the Juan Diego Academy of Sciences and created a summer internship program for high school students.
● Dr. Helen Hu, professor of computer science at Westminster College. Dr. Hu developed a new computer science course that is currently offered at 50 high schools in Utah.

Industry (individual):
● Niel Holt, director of Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory. Holt grew the SDL’s C4ISR division from the ground up, and now directs an organization (key to Utah’s aerospace/defense cluster) with more than 480 employees and $66.7 million in revenue.
● Dr. Ronald Weiss, professor of pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and former president of ARUP laboratories. His leadership of ARUP, one of Salt Lake City’s top employers, has been one key to ARUP’s meteoric rise over the past two decades.

Industry (company):
● US Synthetic is the largest producer of PDC diamond cutters in the world. The company continues to make generous contributions to STEM education in the state.

Special Recognition:
● Troy D’Ambrosio, founding director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah. D’Ambrosio has spearheaded one of the premier entrepreneur programs in the country and will lead in the creation of the new Lassonde Studios—a combination residence and education facility with a unique live-learn-launch mission.

The award ceremony will be held on Wednesday April 15, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 pm at the Salt Lake City Masonic Temple. Event sponsors include the Clark Planetarium, Women Tech Council and STEM Action Center. Lindsie Smith, associate director of the Clark Planetarium, will emcee the event.
The Governor’s Medal award program was initiated in 1987 and nominations are reviewed by an advisory panel before formally presenting winners to the Governor.