Keynote Speaker

2017  - Keynote Speaker for Grand Awards Ceremony: Susan Galatowitsch 

Susan Galatoswitsch—Restoration ecologist—University of Minnesota –Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.

Dr. Galatowitsch grew up on the outskirts of Chicago during the 1960’s and 1970’s when people were realizing just how polluted the earth had become.  When she was ten years old, a river in a nearby state actually caught on fire because it was so laden with chemicals. That made her curious about how to fix the damage people have done to the environment. Until then she was not very excited about science.

Her seventh grade science teacher convinced Sue to explore pollution by doing a science fair project.  She grew bacteria and dosed them with a variety of chemicals—in her family’s kitchen, which was not the best laboratory. At this point, her mom and dad hoped science was a passing fad for their daughter. It wasn’t.

In high school, she heard about a program that took urban youth to the Canadian wilderness to study the environment.  She was chosen to go and that was life-changing. Sue was amazed to see real lakes and rivers, not gravel pits and shipping canals. Sue was even more astounded to learn that these beautiful lakes were being damaged by acid rain and she wanted to find solutions.  Sue was hooked for life on restoration ecology—a field that didn’t yet have a name.

Sue moved to Minnesota and went to college to study biology—learning everything she could about plants and animals—and the habitats they depend on.  Sue eventually earned her PhD in Ecology, doing research about how to restore wetlands that had been drained to grow crops. She was part of a growing group of scientists from many countries who study restoration ecology. She became a professor at the University of Minnesota and now heads the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.

Over the years, Sue has studied ways to restore wetlands, prairies, and rivers in many places—South Africa, Australia –and of course, Minnesota.  From this work, she wrote the first textbook on restoration ecology now used in many countries around the world.  

2016 - Tuesday, April 5 Breakfast/Keynote/Grand Awards Ceremony:



Mark Kroll spent most of his childhood (ages 6-13) in a small mining town in Venezuela. There was no television, internet or library.  However, his father subscribed to the Scientific American and Newsweek magazines. Whenever these finally arrived in the Venezuelan mail, Mark would try to read them cover-to-cover and this formed the basis of his early education. He was also inspired by his father working on patent applications on the dining-room table.

            Back in Minnesota, Mark was in 9th grade in Minnetonka when Christian Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant. It was at that point Mark decided he would spend his career developing medical devices. With youthful naïveté and over-confidence, he thought that we could achieve eternal life by making spare parts so people could be endlessly maintained like automobiles. Minnetonka high had an exceptional mathematics library so he was able to indulge his passion and begin by learning the “language of science.”

            As a freshman engineering student at the U of Minnesota, Mark was thrilled to be hired as a student research aide at Medtronic where he was finally able to actually play a role in the development of medical devices. His career eventually took him to St. Jude Medical where he was the Chief Technology Officer of the Cardiac Rhythm division. Mark retired from corporate life in 2005 only to find that he was busier than ever with teaching, inventing, being a corporate director and learning. Recently he became active in a gene-editing company — so he continues to learn.

             Mark is a named inventor on 365 US patents and he does not know how many international ones. He is the most prolific inventor of medical devices in the world and the most prolific inventor overall in Minnesota. Ironically, the invention that has received the most attention has nothing to do with the human body but rather with our need for companionship and communication — the Pet-Chatz, which allows long-range chatting with and rewarding of our 4-legged best friends.