UT Inventors Honored For World-Changing Creations

Engineering professors John Goodenough and Adam Heller have won significant awards in their long careers.

But an award made more significant by coming from those closest to them came on Tuesday. That’s when Goodenough and Heller were presented with the first Inventor Awards from The University of Texas at Austin. The awards, organized by the Office of Technology Commercialization, were made at a ceremony at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

“We want to exemplify our institution’s commitment to innovation by recognizing the university’s inventors who, by their creative work, have made substantial contributions to society,” said Richard Miller, the university’s chief commercialization officer.

Goodenough and Heller, members of the Cockrell School of Engineering faculty, more than qualify.

Goodenough invented the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that freed millions of people from power cords and cables. The battery technology is used in music players, laptop computers, power tools and electric vehicles. Major technology manufacturers have licensed his laboratory’s inventions.

“The inauguration of an inventor award at the University is recognition of a role that professors have been quietly playing for decades,” Goodenough said.

Heller developed a device that enables people with diabetes to painlessly monitor their blood glucose levels, something they do several times a day. He and his son, Ephraim, started a company to market the monitor and later sold it Abbott Laboratories. The monitor is sold around the world.

“We have always recognized excellence in teaching, we have always recognize excellence in research,” Heller said. “This is the first time to recognize excellence in creating products.”

Goodenough and Heller did not slow down upon arriving in Austin.

Heller received at least 79 patents from 1991-2001, and Goodenough received five from 1999-2003.

Heller said he was drawn to the University by an openness that allowed him to experiment and create products from his research.

“We in this University are more open-minded about what their colleagues can do, about what their colleagues should do, and what their colleagues will do than any other than any other university,” he said.

The commercialization office also recognized the 48 faculty members who received U.S. patents during the University’s 2011 fiscal year.

As if to emphasize the ubiquity of Goodenough and Heller’s inventions, engineering dean Gregory Fenves’ cell phone rang while he was making remarks.

He turned to Goodenough and said, “One of your inventions is calling me.”

Photo: John Goodenough (left) and Adam Heller. Courtesy the Office of the Vice President for Research.



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