Li elected as 2020 NAI Fellow

1/19/2021 Allie Arp, HMNTL

Illinois ECE Professor Xiuling Li is one of three Illinois faculty members to be elected to the 2020 class of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellows, the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors.

Written by Allie Arp, HMNTL

Xiuling Li
Xiuling Li

Illinois ECE Professor Xiuling Li, Donald Bigger Willett Professor in Engineering, and Jianjun Cheng, affiliate faculty member, are two of the 175 academic innovators elected to the 2020 class of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellows. NAI fellow status is the highest professional distinction awarded solely to academic inventors.

“I’m so pleased to welcome this year’s class of outstanding NAI Fellows who have shown great dedication, creativity, and perseverance in the advancement of academic technology and innovation,” said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI president. “This year especially, we have seen what a critical role academic research plays in supporting society. I look forward to working collaboratively with the new NAI Fellows in growing a global culture of innovation.”

The 2020 Fellow class represents 115 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide. They collectively hold over 4,700 issued U.S. patents. Among the 2020 Fellows are recipients of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and Nobel Prize, as well as other honors and distinctions. Their collective body of research covers a range of scientific disciplines including biomedical engineering, computer engineering, materials science, and physics.

“I must share this honor with my current and former students/postdocs and many collaborators,” said Li. “It is humbling to have the privilege to work with so many brilliant minds in our business. Some ideas emerge just because we had a random conversation, and some I am grateful for all the support and so excited to continue our paths forward and make new breakthroughs.” 

Jianjun Cheng
Jianjun Cheng

Li and Cheng join just 1,403 other academics worldwide to have been bestowed with this honor. Li is one of 32 of this year’s class to be an NAI Fellow and an IEEE Fellow. In addition, she is a fellow of the American Physics Society and the Optical Society. She holds more than 20 patents in the area of semiconductor materials, fabrication, and transistor and passive device designs, all with the University of Illinois. Li has been the Interim Director of HMNTL since January of 2020. She is also affiliated with the HMNTL, the Materials Research Laboratory, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Beckman Institute.

Cheng is the Hans Thurnauer Professor and an associate professor of Materials Science & Engineering along with being the Director of the Illinois-JITRI Institute. He is also an affiliate of the bioengineering and chemistry departments, the Beckman Institute, the Institute of Genomic Biology, the Materials Research Laboratory and the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

This year’s Fellows will be inducted in June 2021 at the NAI’s 10th annual meeting in Tampa, Florida. Also in the class of 2020 Fellows from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is Paul Hergenrother, professor of chemistry.


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This story was published January 19, 2021.