News

Kathleen Hu wins Illinois Innovation Prize

Mike Koon, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
4/30/2018

Kathleen Hu (second from left) earned the $20,000 Illinois Innovation Prize. She is joined by (l-r) Andrew Singer, director of the Technology Entrepreneur Center, 2017 winner Lucas Frye, and College of Engineering Interim Dean Tamer Basar.
Kathleen Hu (second from left) earned the $20,000 Illinois Innovation Prize. She is joined by (l-r) Andrew Singer, director of the Technology Entrepreneur Center, 2017 winner Lucas Frye, and College of Engineering Interim Dean Tamer Basar.
Kathleen Hu, a senior majoring in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, has been named the winner of the 11th annual Illinois Innovation Prize. The distinction is bestowed annually to the most innovative student on campus. The winning student is a creative and passionate innovator, working with world-changing technology, entrepreneurially minded, and a role model for others.

In 2016, Hu founded Dibbs, a technology platform and organization to connect excess food at grocery stores to local food pantries. They’re on a mission to reduce food waste while fighting hunger. 

Around the world, it is estimated that about 30 percent of consumable food products are wasted, but that number is around 50 percent in the United States. Conversely about 13 percent of Americans are food insecure. Through Dibbs, Hu hopes to address both of those needs by connecting grocery stores with food about to expire to local food pantries.

Earlier this year, Hu was named a recipient of a 2018 McKinley Foundation Social Justice Award, and Dibbs was one of eight finalists in this year’s Cozad New Venture Challenge.

Read more about Dibbs.

Other finalists for the Illinois Innovation Prize were Jamila Hedhli, a PhD candidate in bioengineering, whose research focuses on developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic methods in the fight against ovarian cancer; Rohit Kalyanpur, a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering, who has developed an extremely efficient patent pending power transfer system, which allows for solar to be a viable option for charging consumer electronics; Hiba Shahid, a senior in bioengineering, who is working to change the face of medicine by using a more quantitative approach to patient care and diagnostics; Lucas Smith, a PhD candidate in bioengineering who has developed several simple, highly multiplexed and ultrasensitive techniques for quantifying disease biomarkers on the single molecular level; and Benjamin Thompson, a senior in technical systems management, who is developing a robot called TerraSentia, which opens new possibilities in crop breeding.