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Rutgers: The Mother of Invention

The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame honors four Rutgers researchers.

Paula Tallal, the Rutgers Board of Governors professor of neuroscience at Rutgers–Newark
Paula Tallal, the Rutgers Board of Governors professor of neuroscience at Rutgers–Newark, was named the Inventor of the Year by the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame. Photography by John Emerson

Much of the research conducted at Rutgers finds its way into practical, and invaluable, application. The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame recently paid tribute to four researchers for their innovations. Paula Tallal, the Rutgers Board of Governors professor of neuroscience, was named the association’s Inventor of the Year. Tallal, also the codirector of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers–Newark, was singled out for developing Fast ForWord, a series of software training programs that strengthen the neural networks critical for language development, primarily in children but in adults as well. Fast ForWord, which has helped people in more than 40 nations, is the outgrowth of three decades of her research into the connection between auditory processing, attention, memory, and language learning.

Elwin Orton, professor emeritus in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, was inducted into the hall for creating disease- and pest-resistant hybrids of dogwood trees, which were once threatened in the United States. Honored by numerous gardening associations as well, Orton has earned more than 15 patents during his 40-year career. “These awards cover all my work, so it makes me feel confident, for once in my life, that my career as a plant biologist was successful, and I did make an impact on woody ornaments,” said Orton, who also created hybrids of holly. “It gives me great pleasure knowing that millions of people are enjoying my new dogwoods.”

Two researchers affiliated with the Wireless Information Network Laboratory at Rutgers received the hall’s Innovators Award. Marco Gruteser, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering, and Richard Martin, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, created a smartphone application that senses whether an occupant is driving a car and thus takes one of several steps to help the driver avoid the distraction of incoming calls or text messages, reducing the possibility of an accident.