Dr. Tom Tafolla, Chair of Engineering Management was awarded the 2018 – 2019 Lemelson Center Fellowship for the Study of Invention & Innovation Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
From June 4, 2017 to August 8, 2018, Dr. Tafolla carried out his research at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia. He began his work on American Latino patent history after learning about the apparent lack of quality information regarding American Latino inventors. He also discovered that previous research simply lumped inventors together on the basis of last name. The problem here is that there was no differentiation made, between a Filipino Santos and a Latino Santos. His groundbreaking work uncovers the plethora of achievements of Latinos in aeronautics and other STEM fields. Furthermore, Dr. Tafolla is near to completing an academic-grade research project on the history of Latino inventorship in America; he’s created a bibliographic record of American Latino inventors; identified female American inventors of Latin American or Spanish origin; and has created a data set for further study by historians. One notable mention uncovered by his research, is the amazing case of Belen Quezada, a Costa Rican American, who patented the design of a “Flying Machine” in San Jose, CA in 1912.
Dr. Tafolla’s focus on academic rigor and novel investigation encapsulates the core of ITU’s entrepreneurial spirit, our emphasis on tech innovation, research and the incorporation of these ideas into the classroom. He continues to raise the proverbial academic bar by promoting these core values to his students and peers. As part of cultivating entrepreneurial endeavors here in Silicon Valley, Dr. Tafolla co-founded ITU’s Global Partners Accelerator (GPA), a hybrid incubator/accelerator program that nurtures technology-oriented business startups and provides sustaining support after launch. Dr. Tafolla has over three decades of industry experience in Silicon Valley and received his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Santa Clara University.