Awards and Honors

Three Northwestern professors named National Academy of Inventors Fellows

December 17, 2014

Two Northwestern University researchers who collaborate on human-machine interface and robotics and another well known for his leading work on the molecular mechanisms of drug action have been named 2014 Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

J. Edward Colgate and Michael A. Peshkin, professors of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Richard B. Silverman, the John Evans Professor of Chemistry and a professor of molecular biosciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, were recognized with the top honor Dec. 16.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

Colgate and Peshkin have long collaborated on research in human-machine interface and robotics and have founded several spinoff companies together. Cobotics LLC introduced “cobots,” allowing automobile assembly workers to work directly with robots rather than be fenced apart. Kinea Design LLC developed a rehabilitation assistant for stroke survivors, in a joint effort with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Their most recent spinoff is Evanston-based Tangible Haptics LLC, which is developing surface-haptic technology that lets people feel what they see on a touchscreen.

Silverman’s interdisciplinary group investigates the molecular mechanisms of drug action, rational design and syntheses of medicinal agents that primarily inhibit enzymes, and the mechanisms of enzymes. In 1989, Silverman and his Northwestern research group first designed and synthesized the molecule that ultimately was marketed as Lyrica, a drug used to combat neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia and epilepsy and sold by Pfizer, Inc. He holds 59 patents that include many other medicinal agents as well.

Colgate, Peshkin and Silverman will be inducted March 20, 2015, as part of the 4th Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors to be held at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations Andrew Faile will deliver the keynote address for the induction ceremony.

The three join Northwestern colleagues Chad A. Mirkin and James G. Conley, who were inducted into the academy in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

The academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society and support and enhancement of innovation.