Engineering innovators selected for inaugural National Academy of Inventors honor

March 11, 2024

From left: Jagannadh Satyavolu, Thad Druffel, and Thomas Roussel.

Three Speed School innovators have been selected by the prestigious National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for its 2024 class of Senior Members.

NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. They also have growing success in patents, licensing and commercialization, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.

“Recognition from NAI is a tremendous accomplishment, and we are extremely proud of these UofL innovators,” said Jon Klein, interim executive vice president for research and innovation. “The research-backed technologies they are developing have the potential to diagnose, treat and cure disease and improve the way we live and work. I look forward to seeing them continue to develop these innovations into practical solutions to real world problems.”

The three inventors selected from Speed School, the only ones from Kentucky, are:

Thad Druffel, J.B. Speed School of Engineering and the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research. Druffel’s work focuses on developing more efficient, more accessible solar panel technologies, including via his startup, Bert Thin Films.

Thomas Roussel, Speed School. Roussel focuses on solving medical problems with engineering, including performing surgery in space and improving outcomes for chronic conditions, such as COPD.

Jagannadh Satyavolu, Speed School and the Conn Center. Satyavolu’s work focuses on leveraging spent bourbon stillage to make greener energy solutions and other products, including through his startup, BioProducts LLC.

UofL and its Office of Research and Innovation provide robust support for inventors working to develop and commercialize the technologies emerging from their research, including intellectual property protection, entrepreneurial coaching and product development grants and training. The goal is to translate academic research into products that can save and improve lives.

In the past fiscal year, UofL was awarded 38 new patents, secured 11 licenses, launched three new startups and brought in a total of $1.4 million in innovation income, including patent royalties and licensing. Over its 25-year history of commercializing research, UofL has been awarded more than 350 U.S. patents, formed nearly 50 startups still in operation and has created countless new products and services positively impacting people here and beyond. For those successes, UofL ranks among the NAI’s top 100 universities in the country for patents awarded.

“This year’s class of Senior Members is truly a testament to…what happens when the academic space encourages and celebrates invention and commercialization,” said Paul R. Sanberg, President of NAI. “We are proud to welcome these outstanding academic inventors to the Academy and look forward to supporting and celebrating them as they continue in their innovation journeys.”

UofL researchers can begin their inventor journey here, and industry interested in licensing UofL IP can find a full listing of available technologies here.