Warren “Woody” Hoburg and is team at MIT work on innovative UAV technology. Photo provided by MIT.

Warren “Woody” Hoburg, PhD, and Cori Bargmann, PhD, were recognized as R&D Magazine’s 2017 Innovator of the Year and 2017 Scientist of the Year respectively, at the 55th annual R&D 100 Awards  black-tie awards ceremony, held at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida, Friday Nov. 17.

“These exceptional individuals have made great contributions to the scientific community, and we are thrilled to recognize them with these historic awards and showcase them on our website and on the cover of R&D Magazine,” said Bea Riemschneider, Editorial Director, R&D Magazine and R&D 100 Awards. 

Hoburg— an aerospace engineer who received the award for his achievements in drone technology at the gala ceremony—said he was honored to receive the award when he accepted it at the R&D 100 Awards gala event. 

“It is a tremendous honor to receive the 2017 Innovator of the Year award.  Being selected was a huge surprise,” said Hoburg at the gala. “As I consider the incredible awardees honored this evening, I am struck by how many grand complex challenges you are taking on. I am inspired not only by your innovative solutions, but by the ways you’ve leveraged existing technologies in unexpected ways.”

During his time as an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, Hoburg led a team that created an inexpensive, unpiloted aerial vehicle (UAV) that can keep itself aloft for more than five days — longer than any gasoline-powered autonomous aircraft has remained in flight. The technology is currently under development for the U.S. Air Force.

The innovation could be essential for a variety of applications, including providing wide-ranging communications support in the event of a natural disaster that disrupts phone and internet systems over a wide area. The vehicle could potentially hover over affected regions, carrying communications payloads that provide temporary telecommunications coverage to those in need.

Resembling a thin glider, the UAV has a 24-foot wingspan and can carry 10 to 20 pounds of communications equipment while flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet.

Hoburg recently left MIT after he was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. He reported for duty in August 2017 to begin two years of training as an Astronaut Candidate. Upon completion, he will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while he awaits a flight assignment.

Hoburg earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Scientist of the Year

R&D Magazine previously announced Bargmann—the president of science for the groundbreaking Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) — as the 2017 Scientist of the Year in October. A profile on her career and accomplishments can be read here.

Bargmann accepted the award via a video message at the gala event, which also featured Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, founders of CZI who outlined the goals of this new organization.

“I’m incredibly honored to be named the 2017 Scientist of the Year by R&D Magazine,” said Bargmann in her video message. “It’s humbling to be listed among some of the giants of science who have won this award in previous years.”

Long before her role with CZI, Bargmann was recognized as prominent neuroscientist, making significant advancements in her field.

After receiving her doctorate from MIT, Bargmann started her career in the laboratory of Robert Weinberg. There she worked to understand the molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, helped identify the role of RAS in bladder cancer, and helped to discover a mutated gene that ultimately became the foundation of the breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab).

Bargmann shifted her career focus to studying the brain, first as a faculty member at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she also ran her own laboratory, and then at Rockefeller University, where she still serves as head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior today.

Throughout her stellar career, she has demonstrated a particular interest in studying C. elegans, an excellent animal model for better understanding how neurons and genes affect behavior. Her study of C. elegans has led to significant breakthroughs regarding the relationship between the brain and sense of smell, elevating her to one of the leading olfaction researchers in the world.

Bargmann was announced as the president of CZI in September 2016, when the initiative was first launched. In her role as president of science, she will support science and technology research and innovations to further CZI’s ambitious goal to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century.”

In addition to recognizing the 2017 Scientist and 2017 Innovator of the Year, the gala event honored the recipients of the 55th annual R&D 100 Awards—an international competition that recognizes the 100 most exceptional innovations in science and technology from the past year. The full list of winner is available here.

The R&D 100 Awards Ceremony took place following the third annual R&D 100 Conference, Nov. 16-17, which featured an impressive line-up of speakers focused on the theme of “R&D Innovations & Emerging Capabilities.” For more information on the R&D 100 Conference visit