UC Santa Cruz prof and grad student are among honorees at 2018 NEXTies

Local awards show will be held at the Rio Theater on Friday, March 23

Ryan Foley
John Felts

UC Santa Cruz will be well represented at the 2018 NEXTies, the local awards show celebrating the best and brightest in the Santa Cruz community. The annual event will be held Friday, March 23, at 6 p.m. at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz.

Among the honorees will be UCSC graduate student John Felts ("Innovator of the Year") and astronomer Ryan Foley ("Wildcard"). The annual NEXTies event spotlights local talent in industries ranging from the arts and technology to fitness and food.

Felts, a graduate student in electrical engineering, is CEO and cofounder of Cruz Foam, a startup company developing a biodegradable alternative to the polyurethane and polystyrene foam used in surfboards. Working with cofounders Marco Rolandi, associate professor of electrical engineering, and graduate student Xiaolin Zhang, Felts developed a way to use chitin, a natural polymer found in shrimp shells, to make a sustainable foam product. Their company is currently part of the UCSC-supported technology accelerator Santa Cruz Accelerates run by Santa Cruz Works.

Foley, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics, led a small team that was the first to observe the light from a neutron star merger on August 17, 2017, a spectacular event that galvanized the international astronomy community. Gravitational waves from this cosmic collision were detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). The observations by Foley's team and others enabled scientists to study for the first time both the gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time) and the radiation emitted from the violent merger of the densest objects in the universe.

Tickets for the 2018 NEXTies are available at eventsantacruz.com.