Robert W. Heath Jr. and Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert of the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

They join Joseph J. Beaman Jr., George Georgiou, John B. Goodenough, James W. McGinity, Bob Metcalfe, Thomas Milner, Nicholas Peppas, Jonathan L. Sessler and S.V. Sreenivasan as NAI fellows from UT Austin.

Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction 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.

With the election of the 2017 class, there are now 912 NAI fellows, representing more than 250 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes. The 2017 fellows are named inventors on nearly 6,000 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI fellows to more than 32,000 issued U.S. patents.

The 2017 fellows will be inducted April 5, 2018, as part of the Seventh Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection, in Washington, D.C. Andrew H. Hirshfeld, U.S. commissioner for patents, will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony.

2017 NAI fellows from UT Austin:

Robert W. Heath Jr. is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He holds the Cullen Trust for Higher Education Professorship in Engineering #6 and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Heath’s research is in the area of wireless communication and signal processing, with specific focus on millimeter-wave communication, 5G cellular and all aspects of MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) communication systems. He is a member of the Cockrell School’s Wireless Networking and Communications Group; CEO of MIMO Wireless Inc., a consulting company focusing on multiple antenna wireless communication systems; and chief innovation officer of Kuma Signals LLC, an engineering firm focusing on wireless communications. Heath is the author of two books, co-author of one book and the recipient of numerous national and international best paper awards. He has been named a highly cited researcher in computer science and engineering for the past four years.

Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert is a professor and the chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She holds the Fletcher Stuckey Pratt Chair in Engineering and the Cockrell Family Chair for Departmental Leadership #1. Her research interests include biomaterials, drug delivery, tissue engineering, nerve regeneration and stem cell biology. She is focused on developing new bioactive scaffolds for tissue engineering, with the goal of making materials that can sense cell-derived signals during regeneration and respond by providing biological signals to enhance tissue regeneration. She is also involved in designing novel materials for protein delivery and testing the ability of the bioactive drug delivery systems to promote nerve regeneration in both peripheral nerve and spinal cord injury models. In addition to holding 10 patents, Sakiyama-Elbert is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering Society.

The 2017 NAI fellows will be recognized with a full-page announcement in the Jan. 19 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education and in the upcoming issues of the journal Science and Technology and Innovation, the journal of the National Academy of Inventors.


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cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students
cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students