National Academy of Inventors recognizes four UCR professors

Author: Jules Bernstein
February 11, 2022

The National Academy of Inventors, or NAI, has bestowed its top honors on four professors from the University of California, Riverside. One, Richard Schrock, has been elected a fellow, and three — Hailing Jin, Cengiz Ozkan, and Anandasankar Ray — have been elected senior members of the academy.

The NAI Fellows program highlights inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation, with creations that have tangibly improved others’ quality of life, economic development, and social welfare.

Being elected a senior member of the NAI is also a significant distinction earned only by individuals with demonstrated success in patents, licensing, and commercialization, and who have produced technologies with the potential for a real impact on society. 

“With the NAI Senior Member award distinction, we recognize and honor these innovators who are rising stars in their fields,” said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI president. 

NAI is a member organization with over 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

Richard Schrock

NAI Fellow

Schrock won the 2005 Nobel Prize in chemistry while on faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a prize shared with Yves Chauvin of the Institut Francais du Petrole and Robert H. Grubbs of Caltech. They were awarded the prize for the development of a catalyst for a reaction now used daily in the chemical industry for efficient and more environmentally friendly production of pharmaceuticals, fuels, synthetic fibers, and many other products. 

Schrock graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCR in 1967 and received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1971. He joined the faculty of UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences in September 2018 and was named the inaugural George K. Helmkamp Founder’s Chair in Chemistry. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and is a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. He was associate editor of Organometallics for eight years and has published nearly 600 research papers.

Hailing Jin

NAI Senior Member

Jin, Cy Mouradick Endowed Chair in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, earned her doctorate in molecular genetics from the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She joined the University of California’s Plant Gene Expression Center in Berkeley as a specialist in 2000 and became an assistant professor at UCR in 2004. 

She has achieved an international reputation as a leader in studying the interactions between plants and their pathogenic invaders. Her lab discovered that small RNA molecules travel between plants and pathogens and can silence genes that control the virulence of a pathogen or the genes that control plants’ immunity to them. This focus has enabled her lab to develop innovative, durable and eco-friendly strategies to control plant diseases, such as the deadly and economically disastrous citrus greening disease.

Jin was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Cengiz Ozkan

NAI Senior Member

Ozkan is a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering. He received his doctorate in materials science and engineering from Stanford University. 

His research interests include the design and synthesis of nanoscale materials for energy storage, nanoelectronics and sensors, bottom-up fabrication of bio-nano systems, fundamental understanding and characterization of electrical and optical properties of nanoscale materials, and nanoscale structure–property relationships. 

He has been a member of several prestigious centers, including the SRC Center on Functional Engineered Nano Architectonics; the NCI Center for Nanotechnology for the Treatment, Understanding and Monitoring of Cancer; the SRC Center for Spintronic Materials; Interfaces and Novel Architectures; and the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Polymers. To date, Ozkan has a total of 40 U.S. and foreign patents granted in the areas of lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, nanomaterials processing, and nanodevices.

Anandasankar Ray

Anandasankar Ray

NAI Senior Member

Ray is a professor of molecular, cell, and systems biology. After completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in India, Ray attended Yale University, where he received his doctorate in molecular and developmental biology in 2005. He joined UCR in 2007, focusing on the neurobiology of olfaction — or smell — in insects. 

Ray is best known for developing integrated approaches with neurophysiology and chemical informatics to study small molecules that interact with transmembrane proteins like odorant receptors. His lab has made several important discoveries including odorants and small molecules that can alter the behavior of insects. 

Ray’s lab is also a pioneer in digitizing discovery of new, safer flavors and fragrances for use in food and cosmetics, which led to the launch of a groundbreaking discovery platform called SensoryAI. His recent discoveries have focused on using machine learning to help identify small molecules against a variety of human diseases such as Huntington’s disease, cancer, and COVID-19.

In 2016, he founded Sensorygen Inc, a startup developing next-generation broad spectrum insect repellents as protection from malaria, dengue, and other diseases. Ray has also worked on developing odor-based repellents to help protect against agricultural insect pests — research that can reduce dependence on toxic pesticides.