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ASU engineering professors named as Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors

portrait of Terry Alford

Terry Alford

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named Terry Alford and Andreas Spanias as Senior Members for fostering a spirit of innovation at Arizona State University while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.

Alford and Spanias – faculty members in the ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering – are among the 54 academic inventors named to the Spring 2019 class of NAI Senior Members. NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. Senior Members have proven success in patents, licensing and commercialization.

Alford and Spanias’ efforts as inventors and innovators have supported ASU’s designation as one of the top 10 universities worldwide granted U.S. patents.

“Terry and Andreas’ elevation to Senior Members in the National Academy of Inventors is a well-deserved achievement for these dedicated members of our faculty,” says Kyle Squires, dean of the Fulton Schools of Engineering. “The Fulton Schools has a strong record of innovation and creativity and its through work like theirs that we’ve moved into a leadership position not only nationally but internationally.”

Alford currently holds 10 U.S. patents and multiple invention disclosures. An expert in silver and copper metallization and low-k dielectrics for integrated circuit technologies, Alford is most proud of his patented work to develop a process for cladded silver alloy metallization to improve adhesion and electro-migration assistance.

His greatest achievements, however, lie in the successes of the students he mentors, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers as entrepreneurs and in academia and industry.

“I use generating patent disclosures as a venue to train graduate students – a way to encourage them to be entrepreneurs, scholars, tinkerers and intellectuals,” says Alford, who serves as the associate director of the School for Energy of Matter, Transport and Energy – one of the six schools in the Fulton Schools of Engineering – where he is a highly regarded mentor and teacher of materials science and engineering. “We use the curiosity inherent in research to address societal needs. I always tell my students, the whole premise of what we do not just to learn through concepts in the classroom or fund research, but to contribute to the knowledge base.”

portrait of Andreas Spanias

Andreas Spanias

Spanias holds nine U.S. patents and several provisional patents. A professor in the School of Electrical, Computing and Energy Engineering, Spanias has expertise in adaptive signal processing, sensor systems and speech and audio processing. Much of the research behind Spanias’ patents is conducted in the Sensor Signal and Information Processing (SenSIP) Center, the Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) he directs with support from the National Science Foundation.

The most recent work of Spanias’ team uses machine learning to detect faults, predict shading and optimize energy output in solar systems. The sensor-related patents his team is developing will elevate energy efficiency and impact sustainability efforts in a positive way.  In addition, compact machine learning algorithms his team developed will provide companies the ability to use inexpensive sensors with enhanced fidelity in myriad technologies, such as cell phone sensing, health apps and autonomous vehicle applications.  

“The elevation to Senior Member is a great honor for the Center and the lab and the students who contributed to all the patents,” says Spanias who is also a Fellow of the IEEE. “We appreciate the support of the Fulton Schools of Engineering, Skysong Innovations, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and especially that of our industry members, including Raytheon, NXP, Intel, Sprint and the four SBIR-sized member companies. The industry network we’ve developed through our NSF I/UCRC have been integral to our ability to perform application-oriented research.”

ASU is one of NAI’s nine sustaining member institutions, and boasts 65 members in the ASU Chapter. Alford and Spanias, along with John Gust from the School of Molecular Sciences, represent ASU’s three NAI Senior Members named to the Spring 2019 class.

Their nominations by the ASU community are a distinct honor and a significant way for the university to publicly recognize the researchers’ contributions on a national level. Sethuraman Panchanathan, the executive vice president of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise at ASU, is the vice president of strategic initiatives and membership for NAI and has been a strong advocate of the work being done by ASU’s newest Senior Members.

This latest class of NAI Senior Members represent 32 research universities and government and non-profit research institutes. They are named inventors on more than 860 U.S.-issued patents. 

“NAI Member Institutions support some of the most elite innovators on the horizon. With the NAI Senior Member award distinction, we are recognizing innovators that are rising stars in their fields,” said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI President. “This new class is joining a prolific group of academic visionaries already defining tomorrow.”

Following a nomination for NAI Senior Member class, individuals undergo a rigorous selection process by the NAI Advisory Committee comprised of elected NAI members and other professionals considered pioneers in their respective field.

Senior Members are elected biannually and nominations are accepted on a rolling basis. Nominations are currently being accepted for the third Senior Member class on the NAI website

A full list of NAI Senior Members is available on the NAI website


About The Author

Lanelle Strawder

Lanelle Strawder is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Before joining the Fulton Schools in 2018, Lanelle worked in communications and public affairs for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Lanelle holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts from the University of Georgia.

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