Ellis Meng, professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering, and Michael Waterman, professor of biological sciences and mathematics, have been elected fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

The honor is bestowed on a small cadre of academic inventors by the academy, an organization that works to increase 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.

Meng holds the Gabilan Distinguished Professorship in Science and Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. University Professor Waterman holds the USC Associates Chair in Natural Sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and is a professor of computer sciences at USC Viterbi.

“We are thrilled that Ellis and Mike received this year this distinguished NAI recognition,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said. “Their innovative work has led to outstanding new inventions and advances in biomedical engineering and computational biology. This well-deserved honor reflects these outstanding accomplishments and the potential for many more to come.”

Meng and Waterman were honored for demonstrating “a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.”

Ellis Meng and Michael Waterman have been elected to the National Academy of Inventors. (Photos/Will Taylor and Peter Zhaoyu Zhou)

Ellis Meng: microtechnology innovator

Meng, a founding member of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, has established the USC Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory, which focuses on the development of micro- and nanotechnologies for biomedical purposes.

Her research interests include biomedical microelectromechanical systems (bioMEMS), implantable biomedical microdevices, microfluidics, microsensors and actuators, biocompatible polymer microfabrication and packaging and the development of thin, flexible polymer-based implantable materials that allow for better and safer mapping of the brain. She is also the co-founder of USC startup, Senseer, which is developing self-aware sensing devices that can vastly improve the treatment of hydrocephalus, a pediatric condition that causes excessive fluid in the brain.

In addition to this honor, Meng was named TR35 Young Innovator Under 35, and 2018 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Technical Achievement Award. In 2012, she was named one of the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry’s MedTech 40 under 40. She is also a fellow of IEEE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Mike Waterman: trailblazer in computational biology

Waterman is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the field of computational biology. His research concentrates on the creation and application of mathematics, statistics and computer science to molecular biology, particularly to DNA, RNA and protein sequence data.

He is co-developer of the Smith-Waterman algorithm for sequence comparison and of the Lander-Waterman formula for physical mapping, fundamental algorithms used for the mapping of human sequence information in the human genome project. He is member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

According to the NAI, the 2018 fellows are named inventors on nearly 4,000 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 35,000 issued U.S. patents. Previous NAI recipients affiliated with USC include Dan Dapkus, Scott Fraser, Ming Hsieh, Mark Humayun, Behrokh Khoshnevis, Andreas Molisch, Shri Narayanan, C. L. Max Nikias, Mark E. Thompson, Andrew Viterbi and Alan Wilner.

By Greta Harrison and Susan Bell