Texas Tech University

Professors Selected as Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors

Amanda Bowman

February 15, 2019

Zhaoyang Fan and Samuel Prien were two of 66 elected to the inaugural class.

Texas Tech University's Zhaoyang Fan, a professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, and Samuel Prien, a professor in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, were named two of 66 academic inventors elected to the National Academy of Inventors' (NAI) inaugural class of Senior Members on Feb. 11.

NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions with success in patents, licensing and commercialization. They have produced technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.

"I feel honored to be selected as an NAI Senior Member," Fan said. "Since being at Texas Tech, I have pursued my interests in nanomaterials and renewable energy applications. With support from the National Science Foundation and the Innovation Hub at Research Park, I am working toward developing and commercializing line-frequency supercapacitors based on carbon nanostructures for electronics and power applications."

Zhaoyang Fan
Zhaoyang Fan

Fan holds 12 patents or patents pending, most of which include working with LED (light-emitting diode) lighting and nanomaterials.

Prien, who also has a joint appointment at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's School of Medicine, currently holds four U.S. patents, 20 international patents and three copyrights, with others pending. Many of these patents have been licensed and are progressing toward commercialization. His first U.S. patent was for a method of collecting and preserving semen, which was Texas Tech's first patent focused on reproductive science.

"I am very honored and humbled by this recognition, but this award is not mine alone as I have had countless students assist me with my work," Prien said. "I came up with the crazy ideas, and they got to make it work."

Samuel Prien
Samuel Prien

Senior Members also foster a spirit of innovation within their communities through enhancing an inventive atmosphere at their institutions while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.

"It is exciting that the National Academy of Inventors has decided to name Dr. Fan and Dr. Prien to its inaugural class of Senior Members," said Joseph Heppert, vice president for research in the Office of Research & Innovation. "This award is a wonderful acknowledgement of Dr. Fan's and Dr. Prien's many accomplishments and an important recognition of the quality of the research being conducted at Texas Tech University."

This inaugural class of NAI Senior Members represents 37 U.S. research universities and government and nonprofit research institutes. They are named inventors on more than 1,100 issued U.S. patents.

"The election of the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members is a significant designation for a group of prolific inventors from NAI Member Institutions who are collectively a driving force in American innovation," said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI president. "This is truly an accomplishment worth celebrating."

Senior Members undergo a two-step selection process, including internal NAI review and consideration by the Advisory Committee. The committee comprises elected NAI members and other professionals considered pioneers in their respective field.

"I am delighted that Dr. Fan and Dr. Prien have been elected as senior members of the NAI," said Robert V. Duncan, a professor and the President's Distinguished Chair in Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who nominated both Fan and Prien. "Dr. Fan is an outstanding inventor and educator who has improved many technologies ranging from power systems to flat-screen displays. Dr. Prien's inventions have advanced the practice of animal reproduction technology to the profound improvement of ranching and farming throughout the world. Texas Tech is a wonderfully inventive university, as evidenced by big national recognitions like this of our top faculty."

Texas Tech boasts four faculty members who are NAI Fellows:

• Robert V. Duncan, professor and the President's Distinguished Chair in Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, elected in 2014
Mindy Brashears, professor of food microbiology and food safety in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences, elected in 2016
Kishor Mehta, Horn Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, elected in 2017
Hongxing Jiang, Horn Professor, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-director of the Center for Nanophotonics, elected in 2018

A full list of NAI Senior Members can be found here.

About the National Academy of Inventors

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and nonprofit research institutes, with more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 at the University of South Florida 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. The NAI publishes the multidisciplinary journal Technology & Innovation.