Posted 2:16 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, 2022

UW-La Crosse Professor of Physics Seth King has been named the Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year by WiSys. The award is given to UW System faculty, staff or students who make exemplary contributions as a WiSys innovator.

UW-La Crosse professor earns state innovation honor

A UW-La Crosse physics professor will recieve a top award from a state nonprofit organization that works with the University of Wisconsin System.

Seth King, who has taught at UWL since 2009, has been named the Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year by WiSys. The award is given to UW System faculty, staff or students who make exemplary contributions as a WiSys innovator. 

WiSys works with UW System faculty, staff, students and alumni to facilitate cutting-edge research programs, develop and commercialize discoveries, and foster innovative and entrepreneurial thinking across the state. 

King embodies the ideals of a WiSys innovator – he is an inventor, scholar and educator. He has worked on two inventions with WiSys. 

One of the inventions, developed in collaboration with former UWL Chemistry Department Faculty Member Daniel Little, is an “extremely simple way,” says King, to functionalize graphene platelets with transition metal oxides. While initial applications for this work were focused on solar energy, batteries, and consumer electronics, the work has transformed into looking at the antimicrobial properties of these materials. King is currently working on a new project with UWL Associate Professor of Microbiology Xinhui Li. 

King is a collaborator on the second invention led by UWL Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sujat Sen. That work focuses on a unique electrochemical technique to deposit zinc films onto steel with controlled crystallographic texture. This controls the crystal structure and can be utilized to improve the galvanization process to protect steel from corrosion. 

King has received more than $143,000 in UW System Ignite Grant funding over the past decade. He is an active supporter of student research, and most of the funding has been used to support student researchers, including summer research stipends and materials needed to complete projects. 

“I firmly believe that research makes science real,” King explains. “I think it is extremely important that students get into a lab and apply the theory they learned, or will learn, in the classroom to a real-world application. It is the best teacher for illustrating that idealized theory and laboratory application are very different things.” 

King’s current research is on the antimicrobial properties of graphene-transition metal oxide nanocomposites. He’s excited about the project because it expands his expertise and has allowed him to establish a new collaboration with more UWL Microbiology Department faculty. King is also working on analyzing archaeological materials with the Archaeology Department and the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center.  

King views his work with WiSys as a way to give back to the UW System. He has earned degrees from UW-Eau Claire and UW-Milwaukee.  

“I have enjoyed being able to join the UWL faculty and continue on the strong tradition of undergraduate research that UW schools have built over many years,” he says.         

King will receive the award at WiSys’s SPARK Symposium dinner on Monday, Aug. 1, at UWL.  The symposium is an annual celebration of the best and brightest researchers and innovators from the UW System. It allows faculty and students to network, collaborate and present innovative research to a statewide audience.