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UTA leads Texas universities in number of National Academy of Inventors Fellows

Thursday, December 14, 2017 • Media Contact: Louisa Kellie

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Dereje Agonafer, Jenkins Garrett Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington

The election of Dereje Agonafer, Jenkins Garrett Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, to the National Academy of Inventors brings the number of NAI Fellows at UTA to 12. This marks the highest number of NAI Fellows at any university in Texas.

“Dereje Agonafer is a passionate contributor and dedicated teacher in his field who has been at the forefront of new technologies around thermal engineering, many of which are now routinely practiced in the industry, reducing product development lead times and costs,” said Chandrakant Patel, Chief engineer of HP Inc. and HP Senior Fellow.

“He also excels at developing strong industry-university partnerships that not only create job opportunities for his students, but also a steady pipeline of practitioners in this important area,” he added.

Since the invention of the integrated circuit, efforts to increase the number of transistors on a silicon has fueled a trillion-dollar business that forms the basis of micro and power electronics systems. Stacking chips or 3-D packaging offers new possibilities for heterogeneous integration of devices such as high-power memory and logic in distinct technology nodes.  Agonafer’s research and more recent patents are essential to providing cost-effective, robust cooling of such packages.

“My latest research is a novel approach to cooling 3-D packaging, the process of packaging integrated circuits by staking silicon dice and interconnecting them and thus building up in 3-D rather than out,” Agonafer said. “We have developed a multidimensional heat transfer system that is capable of sub-ambient heat transfer while minimizing the room required for cooling these stacks. This research will help address the cooling challenge for high power chip stacking which is projected to be a multibillion dollar business.”

Election as an NAI Fellow is a high honor bestowed upon academic innovators and inventors who have demonstrated a “prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions and innovations that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society,” according to the National Academy of Inventors press release.

Agonafer is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the 1997 University of Colorado Boulder School of Engineering Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award in the category of Research and Invention. He has previously received all of the flagship awards for significant contributions in thermal and thermomechanical management of electronics: a THERMI award in 2008, an InterPACK Excellence Award in 2009 and the 2014 ITHERM Achievement Award.

He holds nine U.S. patents and six foreign patents. He has published more than 230 papers, two books and several book chapters and has advised more than 194 graduate students, including eighteen doctoral students. He currently advises 10 doctoral and 34 masters students. His former students work in many industries including three Ph.Ds each at both Facebook and Intel.

“Dereje Agonafer has been my mentor for the last 16 years of my professional career and his professional guidance is outstanding,” said Dr. Terry O’Shea, Chief Technology Officer of The Safariland Group. “I have gained a world of knowledge from him.”

UTA continues to lead Texas universities with 12 NAI Fellows, and is ranked eighth in the nation behind the University of South Florida, MIT, Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Florida, the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University.

With the election of the 2017 class there are now 912 NAI Fellows, representing more than 250 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. The 2017 Fellows are named inventors on nearly 6,000 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 32,000 issued U.S. patents.

Included among all NAI Fellows are more than 100 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes; 439 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; 36 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame; 52 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and U.S. National Medal of Science; 29 Nobel Laureates; 261 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows; 168 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellows; and 142 Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, among other awards and distinctions.