A team of recent Penn Bioengineering graduates have been included in list of prominent young Philadelphia innovators as chosen by The Philadelphia Business Journal and PHL Inno.
Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce founded Sonura as their Senior Design Project in Bioengineering. The team, who all graduated in 2023, picked up a competitive President’s Innovation Prize for their beanie that promotes the cognitive and socioemotional development of newborns in the NICU by protecting them from the auditory hazards of their environments while fostering parental connection. Now, they have been included in the list of fourteen Inno Under 25 honorees for 2023.
“To determine this year’s list, the Philadelphia Business Journal and PHL Inno sought nominations from the public and considered candidates put forth by our editorial team. To be considered, nominees must be 25 years of age or younger and work for a company based in Greater Philadelphia and/or reside in the region.
Honorees span a wide range of industries, including consumer goods, biotechnology and environmental solutions. Many are products of the region’s colleges and universities, though some studied farther afield before setting up shop locally.”
At a special luncheon on campus, President Liz Magill recognized this year’s eight awardees, who she said ‘exemplify imagination, creativity, grit, and leadership.’
When Kenneth Pham got the call last week, he said he was “shocked.”
“It’s kind of embarrassing, the president’s call went straight to voicemail,” the fourth-year chemistry major said. “But I called her office right back.”
Pham quickly learned that he and Catherine Chang had earned one of this year’s President’s Engagement Prizes (PEP) for their project Act First, which, once established, will provide critical first-aid training to high school students in Philadelphia. Both members of Penn’s Medical Emergency Response Team since their earliest years on campus, Pham, from South Philadelphia, and Chang, from Taiwan, hope to extend the program’s lifesaving education off campus, teaching others how to reverse opioid overdoses, successfully administer CPR, and prevent life-threatening bleeding.
“We feel honored to be recognized for the work we’ve been so passionate about, and we are so glad to finally have the opportunity to work on this,” Pham said Wednesday afternoon, sitting next to Chang as well as his parents at a celebratory luncheon for this year’s PEP, as well as President’s Innovation Prize (PIP), winners.
“After all our hard work this past year, it feels great,” added Chang, who graduated with her degree in biology in December.
In addition to Act First, fourth-year neuroscience major Lucy Lee has been awarded a PEP for her initiative Communities for Childbirth, and fourth-year bioengineering majors Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce have received a PIP for their startup Sonura. All three projects will be awarded $100,000 for implementation expenses, as well as a $50,000 living stipend per team member to be used in the coming year, immediately following graduation.
“This is a uniquely Penn experience,” said President Liz Magill, speaking to the awardees and their family members and mentors at the gathering. “No other university has a program quite like this, and I would like to say that’s in part because no other university has the student body we have at Penn, so focused on creating solutions to pressing societal problems. That particular characteristic is a trait that we celebrate, coming down from—yes, you guessed it—our founder Ben Franklin.”
University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill announced on April 21, the recipients of the 2023 President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes.
Awarded annually, the Prizes empower Penn students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each Prize-winning project will receive $100,000, as well as a $50,000 living stipend per team member. The Prizes are the largest of their kind in higher education. All Prize recipients collaborate with a Penn faculty mentor.
A team of fourth-year Bioengineering majors, Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce, have received the President’s Innovation Prize for their project, Sonura.
“This year’s President’s Engagement and Innovation Prize recipients are fueled by a desire to make a difference—in their community, across the country, and around the world,” Magill said. “Communities for Childbirth, Act First, and Sonura embody an inspiring blend of passion and purpose. They are addressing consequential challenges with compelling solutions, and their dedication and smarts are exemplary. I congratulate them and wish them success as they launch and grow their ventures.”
The 2023 Prize recipients—selected from an applicant pool of 76—will spend the next year implementing the projects:
Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce for Sonura: Daltoso, from Boise, Idaho; Ishiwari, from Chicago; Cano, from Lawrenceville, New Jersey; Magro, from Alexandria, Virginia; and Boyce, from Jamaica, Queens, New York, are bioengineering majors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Their startup, Sonura, is developing a beanie that promotes the cognitive and socioemotional development of newborns in the NICU by protecting them from the auditory hazards of their environments while fostering parental connection. The Sonura Beanie is composed of a frequency-dependent filter and a mobile application. The Sonura team is mentored by Brian Halak, a lecturer in the Engineering Entrepreneurship program. Sonura was developed in Penn’s Stephenson Foundation Bio-MakerSpace and was part of their Bioengineering Senior Design class.
To learn more about the 2023 President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes, visit Penn Today.