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National Academy of Inventors Honors Four From UH, Including Two Engineers

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Jeannie Kever & Toby Weber

Between them, Dmitri Litvinov and Venkat Selvamanickam hold 65 U.S. patents with another 15 pending. One has transformed how data is stored in a computer-driven world, while the other is reshaping how electricity is generated, stored and transported. For their efforts, each has been named a 2013 fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

To be eligible for fellow status, an individual must be a named inventor on at least one patent and must be affiliated with a university, nonprofit research institute or other academic entity. According to the NAI website, fellow status “is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a highly 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.”

Litvinov and Selvamanickam were named fellows along with UH’s Rathindra N. Bose, vice president for research and technology transfer for the University of Houston and vice chancellor for research and technology transfer for the UH system, and Zhifeng Ren, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Physics and principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity.

With the latest inductions, the Cullen College faculty now has four NAI fellows. Two faculty members were inducted into last year’s inaugural NAI fellow class: Dan Luss, Cullen Professor of Engineering in the chemical and biomolecular engineering department; and Benton Baugh, distinguished adjunct professor of mechanical engineering.

Dmitri Litvinov: Litvinov is interim vice provost and dean of the UH Graduate School and John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His recognition is an outgrowth of work he started at Seagate Technology, where he championed the development of so-called "perpendicular magnetic recording" technology now commonly used in nearly all computer hard drives. He holds 26 issued U.S. patents and two pending patents.

Since arriving at UH in 2003, in addition to leading research on nanoscale materials and devices for information technology and medical diagnostics, Litvinov has focused on innovating teaching and cutting-edge academic programs.

He holds appointments in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Materials Engineering, and Chemistry, in addition to his role as the founding dean of the Graduate School.

He is also the founding director of the UH Center for Integrated Bio and Nano Systems, founding director of the UH Nanofabrication Facility, founding director of the Nano Engineering Minor at the College of Engineering, and director of the Materials Engineering Program, a graduate program.

“I am always looking for challenging projects that can offer improvement and innovation,” Litvinov said.

From the Graduate School to the laboratory, his goal remains the same.

“Quality,” he said. “In education, it is to make the education more effective and learning outcomes more meaningful to both the students and their prospective employers. In my research, it is about improving the quality of life, either through more convenient technologies or through improving the tools for better healthcare. The spirit of invention can be applied equally to find solutions for new high-tech gadgets or a medical diagnostic tool that can help save lives, as well as to find a high-impact way to deliver quality education. It is about the pursuit to make our lives better.”

Venkat Selvamanickam:  Selvamanickam is M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity’s Applied Research Hub. Selvamanickam brings an entrepreneurial flair to his research, co-founding SuperPower, which produces superconducting electrical wire, in 2000, eight years after earning his Ph.D. from UH.  At SuperPower, he led the development of technologies to convert a brittle ceramic superconductor into a flexible wire that has 300 times the current-carrying capacity of a comparably-sized copper wire.

His team was the first to manufacture thin film superconductor wire, which was used in 2008 to power 25,000 households in Albany, N.Y., and now is used by more than 200 institutions around the world for applications including wind generators, energy storage, power transmission cables, magnetically levitated trains, medical imaging and defense applications.

He brought the research division of SuperPower with him when he returned to UH in 2008.

In 1996, Selvamanickam received the Presidential Early Career Achievement award. He was named Superconductor Industry Person of the Year in 2004 and has received several R&D 100 awards, along with numerous other awards. He holds 39 U.S. patents and 13 pending U.S. patents.

Selvamanickam is now pioneering the development of advanced processing techniques for high-performance materials for energy and electronics applications, including high-temperature superconducting thin film tapes, thin film photovoltaics and flexible electronics.      

Selvamanickam said his goal is to create practical, viable and novel materials “that can have a revolutionary impact on industry and the environment, and in turn, on people’s lives.”

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