The faculty innovators are selected for one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for academic inventors.
TAMPA – Three University of South Florida faculty members whose inventions in engineering, molecular medicine and chemistry are shaping drug discovery, environmental sustainability and modern dental care have been selected as new National Academy of Inventors Fellows.
USF College of Engineering Professor Norma Alcantar, USF Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation Professor Sumita Mitra, and Morsani College of Medicine Professor Subhra Mohapatra were selected for the honor, which is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors.
“Through their brilliant ideas and tireless efforts, these three inventors have created an incalculable impact on our world that is as impressive as it is inspiring,” USF President Rhea Law said. “The honor of being named an NAI Fellow not only recognizes their achievements but also celebrates them as trailblazing women who continue to encourage and mentor a new generation of innovators in pursuing the fullest measures of their abilities and ambitions.”
The three new Fellows from USF are among 164 distinguished academic inventors from 116 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide who make up the 2021 class of Fellows. The new Fellows will be formally recognized in June at the NAI’s 2022 annual conference in Phoenix.
The new selections bring USF’s total number of NAI Fellows to 26. Meet this year’s honorees:
Norma A. Alcantar, PhD
Professor of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
USF College of Engineering Associate Dean for Research
Alcantar is a global pioneer in developing innovative natural technologies for environmental, medical, and industrial applications who this year was named a new inductee to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. She is internationally recognized for her inventions to filter contaminants from fresh water and provide clean drinking water in areas around the world lacking access to clean water; creating new technologies for clearing up oil spills; implementing a hybrid technology to remove bacteria and ammonia from aquaculture systems; and creating novel therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and treatments for cancer tumor cells. She holds 22 U.S. patents.
Alcantar has published more than 50 articles and book chapters; presented at more than 100 national and international conferences; and served as guest editor and reviewer for numerous journals, as well as for granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation and Alzheimer’s Association.
She is a Fellow of AIMBE (American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering); Chair of the AIMBE Committee of Underrepresented Minorities; Member-at-Large of the Engineering Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); and Member of the Council for Racial Justice, USF.
Previously, she has been recognized as an NAI Senior Member, AIChE Senior Member; and recipient of the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award, Jewish National Fund Fellowship, and a USF Excellence in Innovation Award; among many other honors. She was recently named the USF College of Engineering’s associate dean for research. She also was selected for the National Science Foundation I-Corps Program to advance commercialization of her cactus mucilage technologies.
Sumita B. Mitra, PhD
Professor, USF Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation
Mitra is a 2018 inductee to the National Inventors Hall of Fame and is a faculty member in USF’s Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation, which brings together internationally recognized senior leaders —academics, industry heads, and innovators from diverse fields — to advise the administrative leadership of the university, share insights with USF's high-achieving faculty, and mentors promising students. Mitra previously worked for more than 32 years at 3M Company as Corporate Scientist in the 3M Oral Care Division where she led the new materials/products research and development efforts.
Mitra is the first inventor to incorporate nanoparticle into dental materials to produce stronger, more durable and more aesthetically pleasing fillings in products used by more than a billion people worldwide. She is the recipient of 100 US patents and their corresponding global equivalents and has more than 100 publications in the areas of polymer science, nanocomposites and dental materials. She is an internationally recognized lecturer on these topics and has given numerous presentations and courses in various universities and colleges in 45 countries. Additionally, she has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, was named the winner of the highly-prestigious European Patent Office Inventor Award 2021 in Non-EPO countries, and recognized with the EPO Inventors Award, American Chemical Society Heroes of Chemistry Award, Peyton-Skinner Award for Innovation in Dental Materials, and the Hollenback Memorial Prize from the Academy of Operative Dentistry.
She is the co-founder of Mitra Chemical Consulting, LLC, and for more than a decade served as Industrial Director of the Minnesota Dental Research Center of Biomaterials and Biomechanics at the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota. A part-time Florida resident, her passion is in mentoring activities for STEM education at all levels.
Subhra Mohapatra, PhD
Professor of Molecular Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine
Research Career Scientist, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital
Mohapatra is a pioneering scientist/researcher whose work over 26 years has been instrumental in advancing the frontiers of drug delivery of therapeutics for cancer, traumatic brain injury and COVID-19. She developed a novel 3D scaffold for cell culture, now universally known as “tumor-on-a-disc” technology, enabling scientists to grow tumors in the lab which can be used to culture patient biopsies, test for anticancer compounds, and allow tailoring of personalized cancer treatment. This platform has led to a line of cell biology products which have been commercialized globally. She also pioneered novel methods significantly advancing drug delivery for cancer. She holds 18 patents and one foreign patent for her work, seven of which have been licensed to companies and are actively being developed.
She is co-founder of two USF spinouts, TransGenex Nanobiotech Inc., and Agile Diagnostics Inc., which respectively commercialize her innovative and cost-effective cancer stem cell-based drug discovery technologies and drugs targeting cancer stem-cells, and a COVID-19 focused point of care/home diagnostics technologies.
She serves as Academic Editor for PLOS One, Guest Editor for Journal of Drug Delivery and Translational Research and Journal of Applied Sciences and as the ad hoc reviewer for approximately 30 scientific journals in the last 15 years, and additionally as reviewer on more than a dozen national organization committees and panels. Mohapatra was selected among the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members and is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, Biomedical Engineering Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The 2021 Fellow class collectively holds more than 4,800 issued U.S. patents. Among the new class of Fellows are 33 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and three Nobel Laureates, as well as other honors and distinctions. Their collective body of research and entrepreneurship covers a broad range of scientific disciplines involved with technology transfer of their inventions for the benefit of society.
To date, NAI Fellows hold more than 48,000 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and companies, and created more than one million jobs. In addition, over $3 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries.
The NAI was founded at USF in 2010 and since has grown to boast a membership of over 200 institutions in the U.S. and worldwide of all sizes, concentrations and innovative focuses. The organization recently held its 10th annual meeting in Tampa.
The complete list of NAI Fellows is available online.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.
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 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), 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 has a close partnership with the USPTO and is one of three honorific organizations, along with the National Medals and National Inventors Hall of Fame, working closely with the USPTO on many discovery and innovation support initiatives. The NAI publishes the multidisciplinary journal, Technology and Innovation. www.academyofinventors.org