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National Academy of Inventors, University of South Florida Announce New Fellows

Faculty members and a notable alumnus selected for the honor representing the highest professional distinction for academic inventors.

TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 13, 2016) – Three University of South Florida faculty inventors whose work has led to advances in electronics, biometrics and anticancer drugs, along with a USF alumnus who has gone on to create a range of cutting-edge technologies, have been selected as Fellows in the National Academy of Inventors.
 
Faculty members Thomas Weller, Sudeep Sakar and Nicholas Lawrence, along with USF alumnus Israel Morejon, will be formally inducted as part of a 175-member Fellows class at the Sixth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston, on April 6, 2017.
 
Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction specifically accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. The NAI was founded at USF in 2010.
 
“The NAI 2016 Fellows represent a spectacularly talented and dedicated group of academic inventors whose work has had a great impact on the University of South Florida and the wider Tampa Bay Region,” said Brian Lamb, chair of the USF Board of Trustees. “As inventors, these individuals not only create new treatments and technologies to help us live better lives, but they influence and guide our students, who represent the next generation of American innovators.”
 
USF now has 18 faculty members who are NAI Fellows. USF’s Chapter of the NAI is more than 400 members strong.
 
“The entire University of South Florida System community congratulates the new class of NAI Fellows. We are proud to call these creative innovators our colleagues, mentors and friends,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft. “Invention and innovation are part of USF’s defining characteristics. Across the country, our university is known as an outstanding center of research where new discoveries are translated into impactful inventions that serve the greater good.”
 
With the election of the 2016 class there are now 757 NAI Fellows, representing 229 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. The 2016 Fellows are named inventors on 5,437 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 26,000.
 
The academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.
 
The new USF NAI Fellows are:
 
Sudeep Sarkar, chair of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering in the USF College of Engineering, has more than 25 years of experience conducting and directing fundamental and applied research in computer vision, image processing and pattern recognition. He developed a new imaging device that can be used to collect data about the physical characteristics of human skin in terms of its color, texture, and elasticity, which is critical in diagnosing diseases such as melanoma.  Sarkar is also a pioneering leader in the area of gait biometrics, a field which analyzes and catalogs the unique characteristics of the ways in which individuals walk. This development for identity detection has potential uses in security and threat assessment, as well as environmentally-aware electronic devices and smart rooms. Sarkar also a leader in the development of recognition systems to translate videos of sign language into text to facilitate communication between hearing-impaired and hearing individuals.
 
Thomas Weller, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering in the USF College of Engineering, is an internationally-recognized expert in communications systems engineering. Weller has published 29 U.S. Patents and is co-director of the Center for Wireless and Microwave Information Systems at USF. Weller’s research interests are in tunable and reconfigurable microwave circuits, microwave applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing, electromagnetic sensors, passive microwave circuit design, planar and 3D electrically-small antennas, and equivalent circuit modeling. Weller co-founded USF spin-off company Modelithics, Inc. Customers of the company include major U.S. defense contractors like Harris Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Raytheon Company, and world-wide wireless equipment providers Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia.
 
Israel J. Morejon is the Chief Technology Officer at enVerid Systems and is an inventor and manufacturer of an array of technologies encompassing state-of-the-art LED lighting technology and guided missiles. He is a USF alumnus with a degree in engineering and member of the Board of Directors for the USF Research Foundation. After starting his career in the defense industry designing missile guidance and control systems, Morejon founded engineering design and consulting company, Integrated Engineering Technology (IET). IET designs technology for lighting, kidney dialysis systems, hearing aids, robots and the core waveguide technology used in speed guns. He is a named inventor on 27 issued U.S. patents in various fields of technology and his achievement include the design of an award-winning medical user interface system that decodes an optical encoder, keypad, and controls LCD display intensity.
 
Nicholas Lawrence, is a professor in the Department of Oncologic Sciences at USF and a senior member of Moffitt’s Drug Discovery Department, where he has made important contributions to the field of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. The goal of Lawrence’s laboratory is to design and synthesize organic molecules to act as selective anticancer agents targeting a range of processes important in cancer cell biology including signal transduction, tumor angiogenesis, epigenetic gene regulation and cell cycle control. Lawrence holds 10 awarded patents, which include protecting anticancer small molecule technology licensed to GLG Pharma (STAT3 inhibitors) and Debiopharm (disruptors of the Rb-Raf protein-protein interaction).  Most recently, a series of multitargeting dual bromodomain-kinase inhibitors was licensed to Aptose Biosciences.  Lawrence has published over 100 peer reviewed papers and 15 review articles in organic and medicinal chemistry and anticancer drug design. 
 
“With each year I continue to be amazed by the caliber of individuals named as NAI Fellows and the 2016 class is no exception,” said U.S. Commissioner for Patents Andrew H. Hirshfeld, who will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony. “Congratulations to this very deserving group of distinguished academic innovators. I was honored to once again serve as a member of the Fellows Selection Committee and look forward to recognizing this new group of innovative leaders at the induction ceremony this spring.”
 
The new NAI Fellows will join a collection of highly accomplished innovation leaders. Included among all NAI Fellows are more than 94 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes; 376 members of the three branches of the National Academy of Sciences; 28 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame; 45 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and U.S. National Medal of Science; 28 Nobel Laureates, 215 AAAS Fellows; 132 IEEE Fellows; and 116 Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, among other awards and distinctions. 
 
The 2016 NAI Fellows were evaluated by a selection committee which included 19 members, comprising NAI Fellows, recipients of U.S. National Medals, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Academies and senior officials from the USPTO, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Association of American Universities, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Association of University Technology Managers and other prominent organizations.
 
In honor of their outstanding accomplishments, Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal, and rosette pin. The 2016 NAI Fellows will be recognized with a full page announcement in The Chronicle of Higher Education Jan. 20, 2017 issue, and in upcoming issues of Inventors Digest and Technology and Innovation.
 
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 50 research university among all universities nationwide, public and private, in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.
 
About the National Academy of Inventors
The National Academy of Inventors is a 501(c)(3) non-profit member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 3,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 240 institutions, and growing rapidly. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

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