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Duerstock, Wachs receive Trask Innovation funding

Duerstock, Wachs receive Trask Innovation funding

Four Purdue University research projects received funding from the Trask Innovation Fund to help their labs commercialize their innovations. One of the projects is headed by two Purdue IE professors.

The fund is a development program established to support projects that advance the commercial value of Purdue University intellectual property. The fund makes awards twice a year to aid faculty and staff with their patented innovations that are being commercialized through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.

The Purdue IE faculty who received the funding are:

Bradley Duerstock, associate professor of engineering practice in the School of Industrial Engineering and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and Juan Wachs, Purdue’s James A. and Sharon M. Tompkins Rising Star Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering. They received $50,000 for the innovation of a portable device that helps people with visual impairments "see" digital images. This technology uses an algorithm that changes digital images into physical sensations so a person can use other senses to determine the size, color, shape, intensity, location, texture and opacity of digital images. The technology could help users pursue careers in medicine, biology, chemistry and other fields where opportunities are restricted for the visually impaired.

Two PhD students, Ting Zhang (industrial engineering, co-advised by Duerstock and Wachs) and Shruthi Suresh (biomedical engineering; advised by Duerstock) created the system with their advisors. The four then founded HaptImage LLC, a Purdue-affiliated startup, to commercialize the technology.

Read more and watch a video about the research.

The other Trask Innovation Fund recipients are:

Georgia A. Malandraki, an associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences in the College of Health and Human Sciences, and Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor in biomedical and mechanical engineering; You-Yeon Won, a professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering; and Chunhua Zhang, an assistant professor of botany and plant pathology in the College of Agriculture.

These innovations align with Purdue's Giant Leaps, celebrating the global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability highlights as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at or visit For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University.

Sources: "$150,000 in funding to advance, commercialize Purdue innovations", by Nicole Pitti,, Purdue University Research Foundation News (July 10, 2019); Brad Duerstock,; and Abhijit Karve,

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Tom Coyne, 765-588-1044,