Technology

Lemelson-MIT inventor program hires new director for expansion drive

Stephanie Couch is scheduled to take over in July.
Stephanie Couch is scheduled to take over in July.

The Lemelson-MIT Program, which runs a prestigious prize contest for inventors and bankrolls science and technology education initiatives, has hired a new top administrator.

Stephanie Couch will take over as the program’s executive director in July, MIT said Tuesday. She succeeds longtime Lemelson-MIT director Joshua Schuler, who left the position in January.

Couch comes to MIT from California State University at East Bay, where she specialized in advancing science, technology, engineering, and math education.

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She will oversee an organization looking to expand its spending power: in a job ad, the program said the director will oversee a five-year expansion plan that includes growing its annual budget from $3.4 million to $5 million.

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The Lemelson-MIT Program is best known for its annual $500,000 prize that recognizes midcareer inventors. The most recent recipient is Jay Whitacre, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and founder of a company that has developed an environmentally friendly saltwater battery for storing large amounts of electricity.

The program also hands out prizes to college inventors and supports science education through grants. The program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation and administered by MIT’s engineering school.

Curt Woodward can be reached at curt.woodward@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @curtwoodward.