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On the cutting edge: who will lead the next tech revolution? B.E. takes a look at entrepreneurs, researchers, and scientists inspired to change the way we work and live. (Black Digerati).

AFRICAN AMERICANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF technological advancement--from developing the first stoplight to perfecting the long-range telephone transmitter. And the Black Digerati we feature here are no exception. Working on the cutting edge of technology, this bumper crop of scientists, researchers, and techprenuers are continuing a tradition of technological excellence. They represent a new breed of high-tech navigators. charting new courses in fields as varied as aerospace engineering, biotechnology, and entertainment--all with the goal of making these space-age technologies more accessible to businesspeople and consumers.

The rise of these innovators should come as no surprise to those who've witnessed the trails blazed by past Digerati: IBM's Mark Dean developed the PCAT, the basis for desktop computers; Faye Briggs was one of the original creators of the Sparc processor, the brains behind Sun Microsystems' workstations and servers, and IBM's Sandra Johnson Baylor, who holds 10 patents, served on the team that developed the prototype for the Deep Blue Supercomputer. The accomplishments of these men and women have added untold value to consumers and businesses--helping to propel multibillion-dollar industries to a global scale--and, in the process, changed the way we work and live. As this brave new world evolves, despite slumps in the tech and telecommunications sectors, these entrants to the Digerati ranks are poised to lead the latest technological advancements.

Cedric & James Gore

Ages 33 and 31, respectively / Occupation President; Co-founder and Vice President, respectively/Javakitty Media

When brothers Cedric and James Gore began shopping their Bandlink-CD Intelligence software to record industry execs, they didn't have to worry about being rejected. The two Atlanta-based executives have invented a way to make artists, record labels, and consumers happy--all at the same time.

How did they achieve such a feat? Bandlink, an application embedded on music CDs, allows fans to connect with the artist whose music they've purchased. The software enables record labels to track usage for target marketing and sales efforts. The brothers' innovation could result in huge cost savings for record companies that need to determine the "next big hit."

"There's a huge disconnect between artists and their fans," says Cedric. "The fans have spoken in the last few years, and they're not happy with the old value proposition. They're not buying music."

According to a Forrester Research study, the combination of peer-to-peer music downloads and more artists opting to distribute their music independently will cost the record industry roughly $3 billion. It makes sense then for labels to seek out the Bandlink option. When a consumer purchases a record and pops it into a PC, he or she is instantly logged into the artist's chat room. Users can browse photos, view tour dates, and occasionally chat with the artist. Moreover, they can connect with other fans and even share listening experiences. Toni Braxton, Santana, and TLC are among the artists whose CDs feature the Bandlink technology.

With Bandlink, the Gores' Javakitty Media--which grossed about $200,000 in 2002--will continue to make its own sweet music.

Judy Bridgeman

Age 39/Occupation Department Head for Software and Modeling/ Ford Motor Co.

"Car, call mom," might be the words you speak the next time you climb into a Ford vehicle equipped with technology developed by Bridgeman. Her line of convenient, affordable auto features will go into production over the next few years. One such products is My Connected World, an application that allows consumers to connect their offices and homes via PDAs and other mobile devices such as cellular phones. Bridgeman's Jaguar is already outfitted with the gizmo, which allows her to manage her professional and personal lives more efficiently through voice-recognition, calendar, and contact management functions. Another project spearheaded by Bridgeman and her Dearborn, Michigan-based team is Enhanced Crash Notification, which is currently being used by the Houston Police Department. Each police car is equipped with sensors and instruments that transmit critical information, such as the severity of an auto accident, to local emergency services units and trauma centers.

A graduate of the General Motors Institute with a B.S. in electrical engineering, Bridgeman also holds M.S. degrees in electrical engineering and biomedical engineering from Georgia tech. "I've always really liked the electronics end of the business, " she says. "Right now, the strategy portion is also something I [like] because I'm able to show the value of what technology is going to do".

Colin Hill

Age 30 / Occupation CEO / Gene Network Sciences

As head of Gene Network Sciences (GNS), Hill is on the front line in the war against life-ravaging diseases such as sickle cell anemia and cancer. The Ithaca, New York-based entrepreneur has developed the largest data-driven model of a human cancer cell, enabling scientists to speed up and drug development.

GNS has developed a suite of applications that aid in the creation of data-driven models of human diseases. By doing so, scientists can create experiments in silico, using the computer rather than traditional test-tube methods known as the "wet" lab approach. Applications include BioMine, a data-mining tool for analyzing DNA, as well as Diagrammatic Cell Language (DCL) and Visual Cell, Which enable researchers to engage in Large-scale cellular modeling.

Through such technological applications, Hill believes he can compete with Big-name pharmaceutical companies, which generally have mammoth budgets and huge R&D staffs. With GNS, which grossed $150,000 in 2002, Hill is hoping to rapidly develop treatments and cures for cancer, heart disease, and sickle cell anemia-century-long scourges on the African American community.

Anna-Maria McGowan

Age 33 / Occupation Manager of the Morphing Project / NASA Langley Research Center

No doubt, this month's Space Day, celebrated May 1, will be bittersweet for McGowan. At a time when the nation is still reeling from the Columbia shuttle tragedy, McGowan is serving as the national spokesperson for the math-and technology-oriented Space Day Education Initiative. Despite the timing, McGowan is perfectly suited to encourage young people to become part of the next generation of inventors, aviators. and explorers.

At the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the heart of NASA's flight innovation efforts, McGowan leads a team of more than 100 engineers who are designing tomorrow's aviation vehicles. The engineer, who holds a B.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University and an M.S. in aerospace engineering from Old Dominion University, focuses on "pre-competitive" technologies such as biomimetics, which looks to nature for inspiration for future aircraft designs. McGowan's goal is to make future space travel more efficient, environmentally friendly, and safer--a major focus in recent months.

Her parents nurtured her love for flight. In fact, they sent McGowan, who originally wanted to be a pilot, to a private flying lesson for her 16th birthday. Her other big booster was the space program. Says McGowan: "I got support from NASA, and that's made an incredible difference".

Donnie Henderson

Age 46 / Occupation Communications Services Researcher / AT&T Labs

For Henderson, daily life is often the inspiration for the projects he develops. Henderson, who holds six patents for telephony services and systems, designs with convenience in mind. One day while working on a special project, for instance, phone calls kept interrupting him, and he needed an effective way to manage the volume of calls. That sparked the idea for Phone Man, a telecommunications tool that lets users remotely control and monitor calls through a PC. The technology enables your computer to "talk" to a phone. He built a prototype for his personal use.

Henderson, who works in Voice Over IP in Florham Park, New Jersey, has produced a number of novel ideas that incorporate the phone and PC. He refuses to go into detail because of pending patents but says he's developing way of logging phone calls, a unique form of Caller ID, and a graphical interface for these features. "There's much to be gained in IP enhancement of standard telephony," says Henderson, who started out in the field as a technical associate. And although many of us are not familiar with his products, they are currently being used by many major corporations. But don't worry, you won't have to wait long for his innovations to reach out and touch your life.

Sonya Summerour Clemmons

Age 31 / Occupation Bioengineer and Founder/ SSC Enterprises

As the first African American female to earn a Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego in 1999, Clemmons has a rather personal milestone attached to her name. Over the years, the Gainesville, Georgia, native who was the first in her family to attend college, has racked up an impressive set of academic, credentials. She has a B.S. in physics from Spelman College, a B.M.E. from Georgia Tech, an M.S. and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from UC San Diego, and a post-doctoral fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. If that's not enough, in 2000 Clemmons, launched the San Diego-based SSC Enterprises, a 3-year-old biotech consulting company that helps firms identify the next wave of medical products.

Clemmons's research is in tissue engineering and artificial Organs. By focusing on the cardiovascular system and liver tissue, Throughs such as the extracorporeal liver assist device (ELAD), an apparatus that detoxifies the liver and performs its functions for patients suffering from liver failure. "Tissue engineering is at a pivotal point because a lot of the research has already been done," says the scientist-cum-entrepreneur. "Now, that knowledge has to be taken and translated into the marketplace."

It will be no easy task. R&D is expensive, funding is scarce, and competition is fierce, she says. Many companies go bust before potentially life-saving products ever reach market. According to a 2002 Ernst & Young Biotech Report, the global biotech industry is composed of 4,284 companies (622 public; 3,662 private) in 25 nations. The 622 public companies generated revenues of $35 billion, spent $16 billion in R&D, and employed more than 188,000 people in 2001.

Through her groundbreaking research, Clemmons, who will be pursuing an executive M.B.A. at UCLA's Anderson School the fall, is building a business white saving lives.

Captain Mickey V. Ross

Age 48 / Occupation Shore Installations Manager Space & Naval Warfare Systems Command / U.S. Navy

While the world stood still on Sept. 11, 2001, Ross and his team snapped to attention. As shore installations manager for the U.S. Navy, Ross was responsible for building an infrastructure that connected all audio, video, and data communications.

Although based in San Diego, Ross' team was charged with reconstructing the Pentagon's Navy Operations Center, which had been "completely devastated" by the attacks. The team was also responsible for providing connectivity to New York City. When the USNS Comfort pulled into the Manhattan pier during the 9-11 crisis, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani designated the ship as one of the city's alternate command sites. In an anxious world preparing for more terrorist threats, this technology is mission critical--especially for cities with older communications systems. Ross, who is an Arkansas native, began his 26-year career in the armed services a graduating from Bainbridge, Maryland's Naval Academy Prep School in 1977. "It's more critical than ever to have all the systems a war fighter needs," he says.

Bottom line: Ross and his team are key to our national defense.
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Author:Donaldson, Sonya A.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
Words:1867
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