The Lemelson-MIT Program awarded Alfonso (AJ) Perez with a Jerome Lemelson Fellowship today. The Jerome Lemelson Fellowship is a fund for graduate students whose research involves invention, innovation and intellectual property. Prolific inventor, engineer and patent holder, Jerome Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy, established the Jerome Lemelson Fellowship Fund in 1993 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to support graduate study at the Institute.
Perez, a South Florida native and recent graduate of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, was awarded the fellowship to fund his tuition for the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing (MEngM) program, which he will begin this fall at MIT.
“AJ’s inventiveness, entrepreneurial spirit, and desire to pursue further studies that augment his inventive work through the MEngM program, exemplify all the characteristics we were looking for to honor Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson,” said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program.
Perez’s graduate studies will focus on mechanical design and the automation of manufacturing processes. Perez co-invented both a novel gynecological surgery device and an automated network 3D printer during his senior year at MIT for which he filed provisional patents. His medical device invention came out of his discovery and research in Professor Alex Slocum’s Precision Machine Design course. Perez witnessed how current uterine manipulator devices, which doctors must hold while standing for hours, allow for little control during gynecologic laparoscopic surgery. Perez built a purely mechanical transvaginal uterine manipulator system that enhances the physician’s range of motion during surgery and is easier to control than current available devices.
The need for a simple 3D printer that Perez and his Phi Delta Theta roommates could share, print, and use while they were in class resulted in his automated network 3D printer invention. The market demand for an easy network 3D printer led him to found New Valance Robotics, a company that enables students to 3D print at any hour of the day from any device. New Valance Robotics also created an easy-to-use cloud interface and curricula enabling high school and college students to safely 3D print and bring their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects to life.
An Ambassador for Young Engineers
Perez enjoys mentoring students and has worked as an engineering design Teaching Assistant for the MIT Minority Introduction to Engineering & Science (MITES) Program, and Teaching Assistant for the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership (GEL) Program. Perez is an alumnus of both MITES and GEL.
“I've known AJ since last fall. I mentored his 2.75 medical device design team and we were TA's together for the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program. Not only is he an effective leader and mobilizer, but he is also a creative and clever engineer. AJ brings a ton of energy, persistence, and passion to the projects he takes on, and I'm excited to see what he's about to accomplish,” stated Nikolai Begg, 2013 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner.
Perez’s participation in MITES, an academic enrichment program offered by the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP), first exposed him to rigorous, college-level science and engineering as a rising high school senior in Summer 2008. During his six weeks on MIT’s campus, Perez collaborated with a diverse group of top high school students from across the country. All MITES students participate in the program free of charge because of the support of passionate funders, including Dorothy Lemelson. Lemelson was Perez’s sponsor and has funded MITES scholarships every year since 2001.
“AJ’s passion for developing innovative solutions to the world’s problems – coupled with his dedication to playing an active role in the success of the next generation of engineers and inventors – is truly inspiring. We are extremely proud of him and all that he has accomplished since joining the OEOP community five years ago. We are excited to see the immense impact he will have on the world over the next five years, supported by this prestigious fellowship,” said Shawna Young, executive director of the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs.
Perez loves to play golf and soccer when not occupied with his studies and entrepreneurial work. He plays for the MIT Golf Team and served as the Risk Manager for the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He also was the Sponsorship Director for the MIT Career Fair, where he increased sponsorships by 30 percent.
The intensity of the MEngM program precludes students from accepting conventional RA or TA positions. Many do use external fellowships to fund the degree, but most are self-funded.
“Without this fellowship I would not have been able to enroll in the MEngM program which will help further my passion for invention and entrepreneurial goals”, said Perez. “I feel honored to be a Jerome Lemelson Fellow and thankful to Dorothy Lemelson for all she’s done for MIT and me personally.”
“My husband, Jerry, dreamed of creating programs to encourage young inventors such as AJ. It was his vision that led to our relationship with MIT, support of the MITES program and this fellowship,” said Dorothy Lemelson. “It is an honor to be associated with young people who are not only brilliant, but share a passion to improve the lives of others.”
The Jerome Lemelson Fellowship Fund has granted over $500,000 in fellowships to graduate and doctoral students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This will be the final expenditure of the Fund.