Innovation at Penn

Friday, October 31
12:30 to 4:30 pm

Penn's South Bank 3401 Grays Ferry Ave.

Pennovation Talks

12:30 pm

A series of brief, dynamic presentations by Penn innovators and researchers who are shaping the future of science, medicine, technology and society.


Katherine J. Kuchenbecker
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics
Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science
School of Engineering and Applied Science

Adding Touch Feedback to Robotic Surgery

Although commercial robotic surgery systems are approved for use on human patients, they don't provide any touch feedback, so surgeons must learn to operate based only on what they see.  My team solved this problem by inventing a practical method for letting the surgeon feel the high-frequency contact vibrations of robotic surgery instruments.  Surgeons significantly prefer the addition of this touch feedback, and the approach works flawlessly during live surgery.


A.T. Charlie Johnson
Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs
Department of Physics & Astronomy
School of Arts and Sciences

Can Dogs Teach Us How to Smell Cancer?

Trained dogs are the current “gold standard” of chemical detection, able to perform complex tasks such as detection of contraband and human disease that are beyond the capability of man made systems. Bringing together advances in high-performance nanomaterials and biomolecular design offers a pathway to the creation of new classes of chemical sensors that can rival the sensitivity and discrimination power of the dog’s nose. An interdisciplinary team at Penn is pursuing this idea, with activities that range from basic science to translational research and commercialization.


Karl T. Ulrich
Vice Dean of Innovation and CIBC Professor
The Wharton School

How Important is the Raw Idea in Innovation?

On the one hand, without a good idea, the chance of success seems small. On the other hand, with the right resources and approach, maybe an innovator can create value just about anywhere. This talk provides a framework and empirical evidence for assessing just how important the raw idea actually is.


John Q. Trojanowski
Co-director, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research
Marian S. Ware Alzheimer Drug Discovery Program Professor
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Perelman School of Medicine

Is Alzheimer's Disease Infectious Like Mad Cow Disease?

Many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease (AD), show a characteristic spreading pattern of their underlying pathology across specific regions of the brain as the disease progresses. This spreading of AD pathology is similar to the spread of infections in the brain, such as prion diseases like Mad Cow Disease. Studies at Penn are testing this hypothesis and suggest that cell-to-cell spread may be a mechanism for AD progression, but this does not result in infectivity for AD as in some other disorders.

David and Lyn Silfen University Forum: From Idea to Innovation: The Impactful University

2:00 pm

The 2014 David and Lyn Silfen University Forum at Penn's South Bank features a conversation between President Gutmann and special guest Walter Isaacson, acclaimed author of the new book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Following the Forum, please stay for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the Pennovation Center.


Amy Gutmann
Penn President
Christopher H. Browne Professor of Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences
Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication


Walter Isaacson
CEO, Aspen Institute & Author

Networking Reception

3:30 pm

Join Penn colleagues, alumni and peers, while networking with the regional community of innovators.

The Behind the Scenes South Bank Tour

3:30 pm

Get the insider view of Penn's 23-acre South Bank, a hub for innovative research and new business ventures. Included along the tour will be stops at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the Penn Dental Greenhouse, as well as demonstrations by KMel Robotics. Sign up at the registration tent upon arrival at South Bank. Space is limited.

Download Invitation PDF