Innovation. It’s the post-millennium buzzword—the hot marketing catchall with the same notoriety and futuristic bent as Apple’s ‘Think Different” campaign of the late 90s. It’s 2012, and we have an Innovation Charter Academy, The Tech Museum of Innovation, the notion of an ‘Innovation Economy’, and even locally—the Cambridge Innovation Center. But where does innovation start? How does it happen? And where are all these innovators hanging out and getting their coffee?

I think you might find some of these innovators with their cup of coffee in one hand and a smartphone in the other—logging on to IGERT.org to check in with their research mentors 1000 miles away.

Q:What is IGERT? A: It is the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, which has funded 280 interdisciplinary innovative graduate programs.

Every day, IGERT trainees are engaging in the science of innovation and engineering solutions—if you can imagine it or merely ask a question about it, IGERT students are likely working on it. Think Matrix-style, movement-triggered security systems are cool? There’s an IGERT team researching unique-to-user, motion-activated security systems. Wonder if our ecosystem can support sustainable agriculture in the future? There is an IGERT team studying the molecular machinery involved in botanical stress responses—and how plants can be engineered to be environmentally stress-resistant. Need a viable justification for getting a full night’s sleep? There’s even an IGERT team researching how uninterrupted circadian rhythms stave off neuro-degenerative diseases.

On May 22nd-25th, we will all get a glimpse into the world of innovation (and perhaps a prescient look at tomorrow’s discoveries) with the 2012 IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition. In keeping with IGERT.org’s pioneering developments in online collaboration, the IGERT community will open up to invite members of the public (that’s us!) to check out 114 cool video with poster submissions, interact with the students themselves, and cast votes for the new Public Choice Award.

So where does innovation start? How does it happen? It starts with a graduate student with a desire to apply science for the common good. And it’s happening now—across the country—and across the web—on IGERT.org.

On May 22nd, head to: IGERT.org/competition2012

For last year’s Archive, check out: IGERT.org/posters2011/

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