UTA faculty named National Academy of Inventors Senior Members

McFarland and Varanasi recognized for innovative work, dedication to students

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024 • Neph Rivera : contact

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Sherri McFarland

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named two University of Texas at Arlington faculty members as senior members for their innovative work producing technologies that aspire to have real impact on the welfare of society.

Sherri McFarland, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Venu Varanasi, associate professor of graduate nursing, are UTA’s newest NAI senior members. According to the NAI, senior members are “rising stars who foster a spirit of innovation within their communities and institutions while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.”

McFarland thanked the University and its NAI chapter for nominating her.

“It is quite an honor to be recognized by those who have already made important contributions to society through their own inventions,” McFarland said. “I would like to acknowledge the excellent researchers, students, colleagues and collaborators I’ve had over the years who have made this possible.”

Dereje Agonafer, presidential distinguished professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UTA and past president of the University’s NAI chapter, nominated McFarland. He noted the dozens of papers she has published, as well as her entrepreneurial spirit in founding her company, Photodynamic Inc., and the drug she developed that is in human clinical trials for treating cancer.

“Professor McFarland’s contributions to scientific research are evident with patents that have almost all been licensed,” Agonafer said. “In addition, her dedication to the mentorship of students has been outstanding. Congratulations to her on this well-deserved recognition.”

Varanasi was lauded for his cutting-edge research focusing on biomaterials and regenerative medicine.

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Venu Varanasi

“Becoming a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors is a tremendous honor,” he said. “It reflects all the hard work and dedication from my mentees and mentors throughout my career. I share this award with all of my research teammates and thank UTA for its continued support of these efforts.”

He was recently awarded a five-year, multi-million-dollar National Institutes of Health grant to continue those efforts, and a number of his inventions and commercialization opportunities now being evaluated for potential therapeutic intervention for bone fractures and defects in clinical use.

“Dr. Varanasi’s recognition as a senior member is a testament to his contributions to scientific research and biomedical applications through breakthrough technologies, publications, and patents and, more than anything else, to his outstanding dedication to the mentorship of students,” said Gabriela Wilson, co-director of UTA’s Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics and current UTA NAI chapter president. “He is an outstanding colleague, and I cannot think of a better person deserving this honor.”

McFarland and Varanasi join an exclusive group of just over 400 members who hold over 5,800 U.S. patents. They will be officially inducted as members during the NAI’s upcoming annual conference this June in Raleigh, North Carolina.