Recently, the University of Houston’s Dr. Zhifeng Ren was awarded the prestigious 2014 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas. In addition, he along with three other University of Houston researchers were recently named as fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).
Dr. Ren earned the fellowship for his work in a wide range of scientific fields, ranging from the study of carbon nanotubes to high-temperature superconductivity and nano biophysics. Among his achievements, he was the first scientist to successfully “develop aligned carbon nanotube arrays on a large scale, to make nano structured bulk thermoelectric materials with much improved properties, and to synthesize hierarchical zinc oxide nano wires,” according to a news release on Eurekalert.
At present, Dr. Ren holds 24 U.S. patents and 20 pending patents for his work. He has also done much in the way of work outside of the lab, having “founded or co-founded three high-tech companies that attracted venture capital of more than $30 million. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”
“Doing basic research driven by curiosity is very exciting, and necessary for scientists and for society,” said Dr. Ren, adding, “But if they can’t reach people, extend their lives, make people happier, it’s not good enough. My lifetime goal is really to point to something people use daily and say, ‘Yes, that is out of our work,’ instead of, ‘We published a bunch of excellent papers.'”
The three other new fellows from University of Houston include Rathindra N. Bose, who serves as vice president for research and technology transfer for the University of Houston and vice chancellor for research and technology transfer for the UH system; Dr. Dmitri Litvinov, the interim vice provost and dean of the Graduate School and John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the Cullen College of Engineering; and Venkat Selvamanickam, who acts as MD Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity’s Applied Research Hub.
In total, these four professors hold a staggering 134 issued and pending U.S. patents, along with a number of international patents.
“Academic researchers are driven by curiosity and the search for new knowledge,” Bose said. “But we also strive to produce work that can in some way improve the lives of the people around us.”