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50 Years of Creativity and Innovation

From its earliest days, the University of Denver has shown a trailblazing spirit. Sidney Howe Short, one of DU’s first faculty members, obtained more than 500 patents during his lifetime and helped install an electric tramway track on campus. In 1887, alumna Eleanor Lawney was the first woman to graduate from a Colorado medical institution.

DU’s penchant for discovery has only accelerated since. Over the past half-century, faculty and staff have pushed the boundaries of knowledge in their fields and furthered the public good.


Patricia Culkin and Ted Koppel develop Colorado’s first integrated library system, allowing branches to network, manage and share electronic records. “The Alliance,” as it was known, allowed more libraries to share the costs of journal collections and electronic databases.

Carl Raschke


Carl Raschke, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, publishes “The Alchemy of the Word,” effectively launching the postmodern religious thought movement—a philosophical approach that considers power differences in society, rather
than universal truths.


NASA contracts with DU’s Denver Research Institute and senior research engineer George Rinard to design a battery-powered vital signs monitor for astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia. The monitor flew on the shuttle’s maiden flight, and the University received a flag and patch from the mission as an acknowledgement of DU’s contribution.


In an early push toward sustainable mass transit, the Denver Research Institute at DU prototypes a hydrogen-powered bus for Denver’s Regional Transportation District. The project, led by research engineer Art MacCarley, shined a spotlight on improving air quality, reducing pollution and shrinking the city’s reliance on fuel. 


Professor Ruth Irene Hoffman becomes one of the first mathematicians to understand how computers could enhance mathematical knowledge. During her career, she became famous for training teachers around the world how to use computers to convey mathematical ideas to students.

Studying air quality, ozone depletion and the impact of volcanic eruptions becomes significantly easier with the inventions of engineering professor James C. “Chuck” Wilson. Wilson and his team developed instruments still used by NASA, NOAA and NSF to precisely count aerosol particles in the stratosphere.


Chemistry professor Donald Stedman develops the FEAT (fuel efficiency automobile testing) system, an automated and cost-effective way to test up to 10,000 passing vehicles per day and identify the biggest polluters. In his lifetime, Stedman obtained 35 patents.


Larry Conyers, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, sets the industry standard for mapping buried archaeological sites when he developed software for ground-penetrating radar (GPR). His five books are seen as the authority on the subject and are used around the world.

Ricardo Iznaola
Bruce Pennington


Psychology professor Bruce Pennington identifies a gene that causes dyslexia and may have a hand in speech disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His discovery is selected as one of Science Magazine’s top 10 breakthroughs of the year.


Research conducted by Scott Phillips, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, empirically shows that Black defendants—and those who commit crimes against white victims—are more likely to receive the death penalty and, ultimately, execution. His expertise and testimony have caused several states to consider abolishing capital punishment.


Ricardo Iznaola, a professor at the Lamont School of Music, publishes “Summa Kitharologica,” an unprecedented volume on classical guitar, incorporating anatomical and biomechanical information into technical practices. Other Iznaola works are standard training texts for guitar professionals around the country.

Gia Nardini
Cullen Hendrix


Cullen Hendrix, a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, discovers various ways global commodity markets and climate change—especially patterns of erratic and extreme rainfall and drought—are making armed conflict more likely within and between countries.


In a paper, “Together we rise: How social movements succeed,” marketing assistant professor Gia Nardini analyzes why some campaigns for change take off while others fall flat. Her research lays out a road map of best practices for movements looking to make an impact.

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