Faculty Elected Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors

Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Dong Chul (Jeffrey) Pyun, PhD, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Science at the University of Arizona, was elected as one of 66 inaugural Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors. Photo: Bob Demers/University of Arizona

Dong Chul (Jeffrey) Pyun, PhD, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Science at the University of Arizona, was elected as one of 66 inaugural Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors. Photo: Bob Demers/University of Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. – The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named 66 academic inventors to the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members. Among these are Dong Chul (Jeffrey) Pyun, PhD, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (CBC), College of Science at the University of Arizona.

NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI Member Institutions with success in patents, licensing, and commercialization. They have produced technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. Senior Members also foster a spirit of innovation within their communities through enhancing an inventive atmosphere at their institutions, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.

Dr. Pyun has delivered in all of these areas, establishing himself as an international leader in polymers and materials that broadly impact the areas of information storage, optical materials, sulfur utilization, photocatalysis-solar fuels and energy storage. He has made sustainability and the environment core themes in his work. 

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the NAI,” he said. “I have been so very lucky to be surrounded by talented students and collaborators at the University of Arizona, Seoul National University and the University of Delaware who have made all of this possible. Furthermore, I’m thankful for the support of the University of Arizona, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Tech Launch Arizona, which have been critical to foster an environment of innovation for new IP creation.”

The UA College of Science, especially CBC, has a strong history of generating impactful innovations. College Dean Joaquin Ruiz, PhD, said of Dr. Pyun's recognition, "Jeff represents the kind of inventor that is part of a high-powered research university like ours. He is clearly innovative and is capable of looking at how his research can immediately impact society, but his work is deeply rooted in fundamental research. We are lucky and proud to have him here."

UA Interim Vice President for Research Kim Ogden, PhD, said, “Ever since arriving at the UA, Professor Pyun has distinguished himself as one of those rare scientists who ‘thinks at the nanometer scale’ and can translate their understanding of molecules into materials that few other investigators would have imagined. His most recent work in transforming elemental sulfur into a deformable and easily processed ‘plastic’ has led to a whole new generation of lithium batteries and new types of optical materials that can be uniquely applied in the infrared region – where there are significant new imaging needs for both telecommunications and defense and security applications.”

Dr. Ogden went on to say that Dr. Pyun’s work continues to be of the highest caliber and will have lasting impact for society. 

Robert Logan, Assistant Dean for External and Corporate Relations for the UA College of Science, expressed similar pride in Dr. Pyun's accomplishments.

"This is a great honor for Jeff as well as for the UA College of Science, where we want to be a leader in the area of technology development," he said. "He is one of those rare faculty members who not only excels in the typical areas of research and teaching, but he has also has taken the time to be a leader in the area of impactful innovation and technology.”

That impact can be seen in both the academic and industrial spheres, where his research has generated seven granted US patents and more than ten in other countries. His most important invention to date has been the direct use of the vast abundance of waste sulfur from petroleum refining as a new chemical feedstock for the production of advanced materials for commodity as well as specialty markets, such as sulfur polymers for infrared thermal imaging. Two of his granted U.S. patents have been licensed to Innovative Energetics, LLC, a company he co-founded with other UA faculty colleagues to commercialize proprietary sulfur-based polymers.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Pyun has been academically prolific, but he has also prioritized creating impact through his work with students and his dedication to applying research to address real-world problems,” said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from research. “His ongoing achievements add to the growing leadership of the UA as a home for innovation and the development of solutions to the grand challenges of our day.”

Not only has Dr. Pyun’s work been academically prolific and industrially useful, he has prioritized teaching and mentoring graduate students at the UA and Seoul National University since 2004. Nine of his students have gone on to earn their PhDs in chemistry and chemical engineering, and three in the past four years have been selected to receive the UA’s Carl S. Marvel Fellowship from the University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, given annually to the department’s most outstanding graduate student.  After 21 years of practice, his early-career contributions have earned him a number of awards, including the NSF CAREER Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship award, and the Kavli Fellowship, amongst numerous other honors.

This inaugural class of NAI Senior Members represents 37 research universities and government and non-profit research institutes. They are named inventors on over 1,100 issued U.S. patents.

"The election of the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members is a significant designation for a group of prolific inventors from NAI Member Institutions who are collectively a driving force in American innovation," said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI President. "This is truly an accomplishment worth celebrating."

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

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About the National Academy of Inventors
The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 at the University of South Florida to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 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. The NAI publishes the multidisciplinary journal, Technology & Innovation. www.academyofinventors.org

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