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Inventor Likened to Modern-Day Renaissance Man

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (February 15, 2001)–The Lemelson-MIT Program announced today that MIT graduate student and Yakima, Washington native Brian Hubert has been selected as the recipient of its seventh annual $30,000 Student Prize for inventiveness. The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize judging panel selected Hubert, a 27-year-old doctoral candidate in Mechanical Engineering, for the breadth and variety of his designs and innovations. Hubert has a lengthy list of accomplishments in diverse fields that include micro-fabrication technology, computing, music and architecture.

Hubert, who never goes to bed without a pen and notebook by his nightstand, states that he is an inventor at heart who has scribbled out his new ideas on everything from tissue paper to table cloths. He currently holds patents for two inventions—an all-printed plastic memory chip and a superconductor fabrication system—and has three additional patents pending. Hubert's 'silicon-less' plastic memory chip can be easily and cheaply produced, is mechanically flexible, and stores data when the power is shut off. This technology would be useful for smart cards, digital cameras and portable computational devices requiring cheap, high-capacity memory chips.

"I like to have a lot of fun with my inventions," says Hubert. "But I also take inspiration from what other inventors have done in times before. It's great to see how creative people in the past have solved technical problems; just think about what some of these great minds would have done with just a little gem of modern knowledge."

Much of Hubert's recent work is in the area of nanotechnology, which focuses on building things at the incredibally small scale of nanometers (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter). Hubert, who has been working on his doctoral thesis research under Joseph Jacobson, Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Laboratory, has developed the world's first universal "pick-and-place" nano-assembly machine. The machine is capable of picking up and assembling virtually any type of material, several thousand atoms at a time. Hubert likens the device to a child reaching into a box of Lego(tm) toys to build a structure using different blocks—the only difference being the structures assembled by the machine are one million times smaller in scale and one million-trillion times smaller in volume.

It is Hubert's work in several disciplines, such as computer programming and healthcare, that caught the attention of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize judges. "The broad range of Brian's endeavors was impressive to us," said Josh Tolkoff, founder of Seedling Enterprises, LLC and chairperson of this year's panel. "It's rare to see someone who can write and play music like Mozart one day and invent devices that build on an atomic level the next. Brian is a true modern-day Renaissance Man."

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"Brian Hubert is one of the most gifted and creative researchers and inventors I have ever known," concurs Christine Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and a member of Hubert's thesis committee. "For many years, scientists have dreamed of creating and programming molecule-sized machines, devices and circuits analogous to those found in nature. The innovative, new technique made possible by Brian's nano-assembly machine is the critical first step towards making this dream a reality."

Among Hubert's other inventions that demonstrate his eclectic interests and entrepreneurial spirit are his stock analysis software and hip joint replacement implant. The software pinpoints investment opportunities in the securities markets by simulating nearly every possible combination of buying, selling, shorting and covering. The hip joint replacement implant mimics the bending action of a normal bone, yet exponentially increases in strength the more it bends. In addition to his technical wizardry, Hubert is a gifted composer and concert pianist who has composed and performed more than 22 original works. He is also adept at architectural design and modeling, as evidenced by his plans for a house inspired by the style of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Hubert plans to finish his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, with a concentration in nano-assembly techniques. He earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. Hubert was also a superconductor materials scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1993 to 1995, and is the author of many articles appearing in technology publications. More information and background about Hubert and his work can be found at his personal web site, http://www.media.mit.edu/~bnhubert or by contacting Kristin Joyce of the Lemelson-MIT communications office at 617-253-3352.

Previous student prize winners include 2000 winner Amy Smith, who has invented devices with appropriate technologies for use in developing countries, 1999 winner Daniel DiLorenzo, who develops devices to restore function to patients with neurological damage or disease;1998 winner Akhil Madhani, inventor of robotic surgical devices; winner Nathan Kane, who licensed his bellows designs to two companies; 1996 winner, David Levy, who founded his own company, TH, Inc. ("think"), to market and develop inventions such as the world's smallest keyboard; and the 1995 (and first) Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner Thomas Massie, who founded SensAble Devices to market his computer Haptic interface.

Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Read more about Brian Hubert.

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