After spending more than three years in a University laboratory, Rackham student Jeffrey Anker is now proud to say that he finally accomplished his childhood dream of becoming an inventor, an ambition he once gave up on.

Paul Wong
Rackham student Jeff Anker displays an award-winning microscope he invented. Anker is one of six winners of the 12th Collegiate Inventors Competition.

Currently studying applied physics in the Chemistry Department, Anker is one of six winners of the 12th Collegiate Inventors Competition for his invention of the Magnetically Modulated Optical Nanoprobe.

“To even be awarded such a prestigious award means I can start to call myself an inventor again,” he said. “I invented a way to improve chemical sensing. (MagMOON looks) for small quantities of specific molecules from specific diseases – proteins from HIV or anthrax.”

This will determine what disease a person is suffering from with more accuracy and lead to earlier disease detection.

“The problem with current techniques is that you end up looking for a color change when (molecules) are on a surface. There are lots of molecules in a sample that will be fluorescent in some way,” Anker said. “What I’ve done is come up with a way of making fluorescents blink in a magnetic field like a lighthouse against city lights of a plane against the stars.”

To explain the function of MagMOON, Anker uses a tennis ball, half-black, half-yellow, to represent the moon. Tossing the ball into the air demonstrates the microscopic sensory procedure of MagMOON, Anker said. Part of the tennis ball is opaque, capped with aluminum, allowing only the north side of the ball to emit light.

Understanding how a cell works can assist basic biology research and is one of two of MagMOON’s major applications, Anker said. The other, he added, is derived from studying the effects of different diseases and potential drugs on cells, facilitating the advancement of drug research.

Along with prizes from Hewlett-Packard and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Anker is still deciding how to spend the $20,000 MagMOON brought him.

“I’ll spend a certain portion, 10 percent, on improving my life – going on trips, buying a better computer or bike,” he said. “I also want to keep 80 to 90 percent in the bank in case I want to pursue commercialization or if I need to file for a full patent.”

During his time at the University, chemistry Prof. Raoul Kopelman supervised Anker’s project.

“I’m extremely proud. It’s the best thing when your students get the best,” Kopelman said. “There’s an old quote from a wise Jewish rabbi – ‘I learned a lot from my teachers, a lot from my colleagues and most of all from my students.'”

The Collegiate Inventors Competition was introduced as a component of the National Inventors Hall in 1990. More than 200 entries were received for this year before 16 finalists were selected. Other winners include Saul Griffith from theMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Yu Huang from Harvard University and Zachary Knight from the University of California at San Francisco.

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