Daniel Dilorenzo, 33
University of Utah Medical School
Like many inventors-to-be, Daniel DiLorenzo was fascinated with electricity and moving parts at an early age. By fifth grade, he’d assembled his first electrical circuit. As a high school senior he built a four-legged robot, and by the time he graduated from college he’d designed a digital control system to make the robot walk.
Despite his aptitude for hardware, DiLorenzo always wanted to be a doctor. So he set out to become a physician-inventor, and in June earned both a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT and an MD in a joint Harvard-MIT program. Innovations like a patented method to control brain swelling during surgery and a project that used muscle-stimulating electrodes to enable a spinal-cord injury patient to walk 20 meters in the lab earned DiLorenzo this year’s $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Invention.
DiLorenzo started his residency at the University of Utah Medical School this fall, and is set on becoming an expert in functional neurosurgery. DiLorenzo is likely to play a key role in this emerging discipline, which looks to combine electronic brain implants and nerve stimulation to restore motion to the paralyzed and lost senses to the blind and deaf.