Logo: University of Southern California

Two Viterbi Professors Honored by World Economic Forum

WEF names Andrea Armani one of 30 “exceptional scientists under 40” in the world, following Gerald Loeb’s honor as Tech Pioneer 2014.
By: Regina Wu
September 24, 2014 —


Andrea Armani presents at the annual meeting of the New Champions 2014 in Tianjin, China. 

On September 8, 2014, the World Economic Forum recognized Andrea Armani, a USC Viterbi associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science, as a Young Scientist in Tianjin, China at the annual meeting of the New Champions 2014.

The World Economic Forum chose just 30 scientists under the age of 40 from all over the world to be honored as a Young Scientist. Armani was nominated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and by Dr. David Agus, a globally renowned cancer doctor and professor of medicine and engineering at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Along with receiving this award, Armani spoke about emerging diagnostic methods and the current challenges in the field in different markets and operational environments. For example, in immunoassay-based methods, which rely on biomaterials for accuracy, one of the main hurdles is the availability and long-term stability of the biomaterial. While there is significant ongoing research in biomaterials or biomarker discovery in middle and low-income countries, biomaterial storage is an unsolved problem.

This prestigious event holds unique networking experiences as well.

“Unlike normal scientific conferences, there were leaders in science, policy, economics and finance. I had coffee with Wan Gang, the minister of science of China, and discussed challenges in global healthcare with Subramaniam Sathasivam, the minister of health of Malaysia! It was a surreal experience meeting people that I have previously only heard on NPR or seen on the news,” said Armani. “Normally in L.A., its ‘oh my gosh, there’s Johnny Depp!’ but here it was ‘oh my gosh, there’s the prime minister of Denmark!’”

Also in attendance was Gerald Loeb, a USC Viterbi professor of biomedical engineering, who moderated a panel about technology transfer at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014.

Loeb is the CEO of SynTouch LLC, a company that develops and manufactures tactile sensors of mechatronic systems that mimic the human hand. The startup was named a Technology Pioneer of 2014 by the World Economic Forum at the annual meeting of the New Champions 2013 in Dalian, China. While there, Loeb discussed the technology behind BioTac®.

The BioTac® sensor has a flexible skin over a liquid filling designed like the human finger. This skin also has fingerprints on the surface, which is vital for picking up vibrations and deciphering textures accurately. Vibrations are then detected by a hydrophone inside, a bone-like core of the finger, making BioTac® even more sensitive than the human finger.

According to Armani, very few universities have more than one person honored at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, highlighting USC Viterbi’s prominence in the scientific community.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2015 will be held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from January 21-24, 2015.