Engineering the Future and Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Awards Presented at the Annual Samueli School Banquet

Prominent biomedical community leader, William J. Link, and Professor Georges Belfort honored for exceptional contributions to academia

June 7, 2006 - The Henry Samueli School of Engineering recognized two guests of honor during the School’s annual awards banquet held on Monday, May 15, 2006. Dr. William J. Link, Ph.D., a managing director of Versant Ventures, accepted the prestigious Engineering the Future Award, and Georges Belfort, Ph.D., the Russell Sage Endowed Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was presented with the first Outstanding Alumnus of the Year award.

“It was an honor for the School to recognize two exceptional engineers who are continuously contributing to the development of technology, and are respected leaders in their fields,” said Nicolaos G. Alexopoulos, dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

UC Irvine Chancellor, Michael V. Drake, M.D., attended the engineering banquet and presented the awards to Link and Belfort , offering his congratulations and also speaking to guests about the importance of biomedical engineering advancements and exciting research initiatives happening within the biomedical field.

William J. Link - 2006 Engineering the Future Award
Link, a managing director of Versant Ventures, a healthcare venture capital investment firm with over $1 billion in committed capital, was honored for his instrumental role in establishing the Biomedical Engineering department at UC Irvine and his drive to further the advancement of engineering in medicine.

Link has a proven track record of building and operating large, successful medical product companies. With extensive knowledge of medical devices and drug delivery, particularly in ophthalmology, his operating experience spans more than 23 years in general management in the healthcare industry.

One of his greatest operational successes was as founder, chairman and CEO of Chiron Vision, a subsidiary of Chiron Corporation specializing in ophthalmic surgical products, which was later sold to Bausch and Lomb in late 1997 for $310 million. Prior to Chiron Vision, Link founded and served as president of American Medical Optics, a division of American Hospital Supply Corporation sold to Allergan in 1986 for $165 million.

Before entering the healthcare industry, Link was an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Prior to co-founding Versant Ventures, Link was a general partner at Brentwood Venture Capital, where he invested in a number of early-stage companies, including eyeonics (private), IntraLase (public), IntraTherapeutics (sold), OraMetrix (private) and Refractec (private). His Versant investments include AcuFocus (private), Cameron Health (private) Confirma (private), Glaukos (private), Inogen (private), NeoVista (private), ROX Medical, Second Sight (private) and Wavetec Vision Systems. 

Link earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University . In February 2002, Link was named Engineer of the Year by the Orange County Engineering Council.  

Georges Belfort - 2006 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award
Belfort, a 1972 Ph.D. graduate and 1969 M.S. graduate of the Samueli School , was the first recipient to accept the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year award. A native of South Africa, Belfort joined the Rensselaer faculty in 1978 after a one-year sabbatical leave at Northwestern University , and four years on the faculty of the School of Applied Science , Hebrew University , Jerusalem, Israel .

Belfort received his B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering in 1963 from the University of Cape Town , Cape Town, South Africa . Prior to joining Rensselaer in 1978, he held the post of senior lecturer at the School of Applied Science from 1973 to 1977.  Belfort has spent part, or all, of his (sabbatical) leaves at Cape Town University (1972), Northwestern University (1977-78), Yale University (1988), MIT (1988), Caltech (1988), and UC Berkeley (1996).

Belfort is one of the premier academic scientists in the field of bioseparations engineering, and is a leading academic chemical engineer in liquid-phase pressure-driven membrane-based processes. He has made seminal wide-ranging fundamental and applied research contributions to the understanding, design and application of pressure-driven membrane processes for the recovery of biological molecules.

His research, both fundamental and developmental, is conducted in the areas of membrane-separations engineering and surface science and the behavior of proteins at interfaces. In particular, the research involves design of new membrane modules with highly efficient mass-transfer characteristics, modification of membrane surfaces for reduced fouling, and use of genetic engineering as a tool in the separation of biological molecules. Direct measurements are also made of intermolecular forces between proteins and polymeric films for application in separations and marine fouling.

Recent interest has focused on the effect of solid substrates on the conformation of proteins, the development of a new molecular two-dimensional imprinting technique, the use of helical hollow fiber membranes to fractionate foreign immunoglobulins from transgenic goat milk, and the modification new polymeric surfaces for synthetic membranes using photo-induced polymerization that exhibit low attraction to proteins (biotechnology applications) and natural organic matter (environmental applications).

Belfort received the 1995 ACS Award in Separation Science and Technology, the 2000 AIChE Clarence Gerhold Award in Separations Science and Technology, served as president of the North American Membrane Society (1995-96), was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2003, and serves on the editorial boards of four journals.  He lectures widely in both academic and industrial settings, and is an active consultant in the United States, Europe and Japan. 

Chancellor Drake, Marsha Link, William J. Link, and Dean Alexopoulos

 Chancellor Drake, Professor Georges Belfort, and Dean Alexopoulos







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