NAI recognized

2 Houston energy researchers secure prestigious designation

The National Academy of Inventors has honored two inventors in Houston within the energy field with their annual professional distinction. Photos via UH.edu

Two professors from the University of Houston have been admitted as fellows to the National Academy of Inventors.

Vincent Donnelly, Moores professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Christine Ehlig-Economides, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished university chair of Petroleum Engineering, received the Fellows honor, which is the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors.

UH now has 39 professors who are either Fellows or Senior Members of the NAI. Donnelly and Ehlig-Economides will be inducted as NAI fellows at the NAI 13th annual meeting on June 18 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“The remarkable contributions of the two new NAI Fellows from the University of Houston have left a lasting imprint, earning them high esteem in their respective fields,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for research and technology at UH, says in a statement. “Their work stands as a testament to the extraordinary impact inventors can have, reflecting a standard of excellence that truly sets them apart.”

Donnelly, who is considered a pioneer in plasma science with applications to microelectronics and nanotechnology, was elevated to Fellow for his research on complex plasma systems used in the making of microchips. Ehlig-Economides was elevated to NAI fellow for her vital research leading to innovative solutions in the energy and industrial fields. Ehlig-Economides was also the first woman in the United States to earn a doctorate degree in petroleum engineering.

Two other Houston instructors from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will be inducted to the program in the new year. Jeffrey H. Siewerdsen, professor within the department of Imaging Physics and the Division of Diagnostic Imaging, and Anil Sood, professor and vice chair for Translational Research in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology and co-director of the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA.

Some other notable Texas honorees among the 2024 appointees include:

  • Mark Benden, Texas A&M University
  • Arumugam Manthiram, the University of Texas at Austin
  • Werner Kuhr, Texas Tech University
  • Balakrishna Haridas, Texas A&M University
  • P.Reddy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

“This year’s class of NAI Fellows showcases the caliber of researchers that are found within the innovation ecosystem. Each of these individuals are making significant contributions to both science and society through their work,” Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NAI, says in the release. “This new class, in conjunction with our existing Fellows, are creating innovations that are driving crucial advancements across a variety of disciplines and are stimulating the global and national economy in immeasurable ways as they move these technologies from lab to marketplace.

UH also ranks 60th on the National Academy of Inventors’ list of the top 100 universities for utility patents granted last year in the U.S. In 2022, UH received 32 utility patents. The university explains that utility patents are among the world’s most valuable assets because they give inventors exclusive commercial rights for producing and using their technology.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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