University Honors Inventors

Don Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System president, spoke at the banquet.
Whit Pruitt

Don Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System president, spoke at the banquet.

The sixth annual University of Arkansas Technology Ventures Inventor Appreciation Banquet was held at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House on Feb. 28. Kim Needy, interim vice provost for research and innovation, presented the awards and Don Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System president, was the guest speaker.

Five inventors were recognized with plaques for their patented inventions.

Ajay Malshe, Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering, was recognized for his invention, Nanostructured Hydroxyapatite Coating for Dental and Orthopedic Implants. Material used in implants that replace teeth or strengthen bones must be biocompatible, so that the living bone cells can grow into the implant to make a strong connection with the metal. Hydroxyapatite is a ceramic material with excellent biocompatibility, but hydroxyapatite is brittle and cannot be used as the body of the implant itself. Malshe's invention uses a nanospray method to coat a titanium substrate with nanoscale particles of hydroxyapatite and zinc oxide, resulting in a superior biocompatible coating.

Suresh Thallapuranam, professor of biochemistry, and David McNabb, associate professor of biological sciences, are co-inventors on two patents. One of them, titled Peptides with Anti-fungal Activity and Methods of Using the Peptides, addresses the increasing problem of fungal infections and the decreasing effectiveness of traditional treatments of fungal infections. Kumar and McNabb synthesized peptides based on the study of a naturally occurring antifungal compound, Histatin 5, that occurs in humans. Testing of the peptides shows significant antifungal action when used against Candida Albicans, a significant source of sometimes deadly fungal infection.

Their other patent is titled Heparin Affinity Tag and Applications Thereof. This invention finds its use in Recombinant DNA technology, which is extensively used in biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry.  The invention codes into the DNA sequence, along with the sequence of the target protein, an extra bit of DNA, called an affinity tag, that causes the target protein to bind strongly to heparin, a naturally occurring substance. With the target protein attached to the heparin, it can then be easily refined from the rest of the non-target proteins. This process greatly reduces the cost of producing proteins by means of recombinant DNA.

Juan Balda, University Professor of electrical engineering, was recognized for his patent, Light-Weight, Compact, Power Electronics Converter System. This new power electronics converter design is compact and lightweight when compared to conventional systems.  A further advantage is an increased fault current capacity, which allows the design to withstand from two to 10 times the nominal current for five to 10 micro seconds without failure. These features of the new power electronics converter make it ideal for many current applications, as well as future applications where the advantages of the new design will be absolutely necessary. 

Steve Tung, professor of mechanical engineering, holds a patent for AFM Nanochannel System for DNA Sequencing and Nanoparticle Characterization. This invention will be able to sequence DNA rapidly and at far lower cost than current methods. It uses a nanochannel etched into a silicone substrate. As the DNA is drawn through a pair of opposing electrodes embedded in the substrate, the current passing through the DNA will record the signals that identify the base pairs of the DNA. The invention does not need to use cleanroom processing and is therefore less expensive than other chip manufacturing methods.

Twenty-four inventors were recognized for invention disclosures:

  • Alison Turner, clinical assistant professor of architecture
  • Rachel Smith Loerts, graduate assistant, architecture
  • Morten Jensen, associate professor of biomedical engineering
  • Lauren Greenlee, assistant professor of chemical engineering
  • Keith Roper, associate professor of chemical engineering
  • Jamie Hestekin, professor of chemical engineering
  • Robert Coridan, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry
  • Stefan Kilyanek, assistant professor of inorganic chemistry
  • Ryan Tian, associate professor of inorganic chemistry
  • Jingyi Chen, associate professor of physical chemistry
  • Qinghua Li, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering
  • Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering
  • Shui-Qing (Fisher) Yu, associate professor of electrical engineering
  • Po-Hao Huang, associate professor of mechanical engineering
  • David Huitink, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Henry Meng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Ashok Saxena, Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering
  • Wenchao Zhou, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Min Zou, professor of mechanical engineering
  • Hugh Churchill, assistant professor of physics
  • Greg Salamo, Distinguished Professor of physics

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