Rice trio named National Academy of Inventors fellows

Rice University professors Naomi Halas, James Tour and K.C. Nicolaou have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

They are among 168 new fellows named by the society Dec. 15. Academy fellows are nominated by their peers for their 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, according to the academy.

Naomi Halas

Naomi Halas

Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of chemistry, bioengineering, physics and astronomy, and materials science and nanoengineering, is a pioneer in the study of the fundamental properties and potential applications of light-activated nanoparticles. Her research has explored how light-activated nanomaterials can be used for applications ranging from the treatment of cancer and molecular sensing to biomimetic photodetection, and off-grid solar-powered sterilization.

Halas is the first person in the university’s history to be elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering for research done at Rice. She also the founding director of Rice’s Smalley-Curl Institute, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Materials Research Society, the Optical Society, the American Physical Society, the International Society for Optical Engineering and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

James Tour

James Tour

Tour, the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering, is widely recognized as the builder of the world’s first nanocar and as a pioneer in the development of applications for graphene, the single-atom-thick form of carbon.

Tour’s Rice lab is developing nanoscale technologies for electronics, flat-screen displays, retail inventory, oil and gas exploration, wellhead carbon sequestration, fuel cells and energy storage. The lab’s development of laser-induced graphene promises to provide a simple and inexpensive way to produce sponge-like graphene from plastic for many applications.

K.C. Nicolaou

K.C. Nicolaou

Nicolaou, the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry, is best known as the first organic chemist to publish a complete synthetic pathway to the natural substance taxol. Marketed as paclitaxel, it is used to treat ovarian, breast, lung, pancreatic and other cancers and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2014, he was given the Nemitsas Prize, the highest honor a Cypriot scientist can receive and one of the most prestigious in the European Union.

Nicolaou joined Rice in 2013. His research involves reproducing nature’s most complex organic molecules and has been cited more than 55,000 times. Since setting up at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative, his lab has achieved the total syntheses of two complex antibiotics, viridicatumtoxin B and CJ-16,264, and several potential cancer-fighting agents, including shishijimicin A and trioxacarcins A, B and C.  He also developed a practical method for the synthesis of chemical building blocks widely used in drug discovery research and in the manufacture of drugs and dyes.

The 2015 fellows will be inducted April 15 at the academy’s annual conference in Alexandria, Va.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.