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Faculty, staff can nominate students for $10,000 prize

The 2014 Inspiration Award winners were, from left, Vishnu Dantu, Eva Polgar and Jaicheng (Jason) He.

UNT faculty and staff members can nominate students who show extraordinary creativity for the 2015 Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards, made possible by a $350,000 gift from donors Bob and Bette Sherman.

The awards are open to any full-time UNT student with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, regardless of their field of study. Any original student project, application, invention, musical or literary composition, or artwork in any media may be nominated.

Nominations, which must include a completed nomination form and essay as well as a sample of the student’s work, must be received by 5 p.m. Jan. 30. Student nominees will be notified via email and will then have an additional two weeks to fine-tune their submissions, with final projects due by 5 p.m. Feb. 13.

A panel of judges, including UNT President Neal Smatresk, will review all the submissions and narrow them down to a group of semifinalists. These students will then present their projects in person to the judges. Winners will be announced at an awards program in April. First prize is $10,000, second prize is $3,000, and third prize is $1,000.

Last year’s winner, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science student Vishnu Dantu, won for his smartphone-based blood glucose monitor. He hopes his project, which measures blood glucose levels without drawing blood, will help diabetic patients worldwide, particularly in areas with limited access to medical care.

“UNT has offered me so much opportunity. Thanks to the Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Award, I’m actually able to move my project further,” he says.

Last year’s runners-up were College of Music doctoral student Eva Polgar for her project demonstrating how musical performance and other art forms affect the musical community and the concert audience, and TAMS student Jaicheng (Jason) He for his research aiming to help doctors quickly identify narrowing of arteries or blockages in heart patients.

Nancy Hong, executive director of the Innovation Greenhouse, which administers the awards, says the Inspiration Awards are unique in that students in every discipline and projects of every variety — from musical compositions to paintings to apps — are eligible.

“This award will not only help students kick start their projects, but winners will also receive other resources such as coaching and mentoring from experts in their fields who can help take the project to the next level and beyond,” she says.

The awards are named to honor the Shermans, longtime UNT supporters, and Bette Sherman’s late father, Maj. Gen. Olinto Mark Barsanti, whose historic military artifacts are part of the UNT Libraries archive.

“Students need to be encouraged to think outside the box,” Bob Sherman says. “Great ideas emerge when we give them freedom to explore and create. This award is designed to honor the pioneers of every discipline who are willing to take the kind of risks that lead to discovery and transformation.”

Only UNT faculty members and staff can nominate students for their work. Students cannot nominate themselves or others, but they may ask their advisors to nominate them.

—Claudia Taylor, Division of Advancement

Top, the winners of the 2014 Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards: from left, Vishnu Dantu, Eva Polgar and Jaicheng (Jason) He.

Posted on: Wed 07 January 2015

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