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2 UMD Researchers Elected to National Academy of Inventors

Computer Scientist and Engineer, Chemist Lauded for Significant Contributions to Science and Society

By Darcy J. Long and Abby Robinson

Windows at the Iribe Center against a blue sky

Two University of Maryland professors, known for their work in robotics and artificial intelligence and carbohydrate chemistry, have been elected to the National Academy of Inventors, joining 11 other current faculty and staff members from UMD.

Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering photo by John T. Consoli

Two University of Maryland researchers will join the ranks of some of the nation’s most creative inventors as newly named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors’ (NAI) Class of 2023.

Distinguished University Professor Dinesh Manocha, who holds appointments in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Computer Science and UMD’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and Distinguished University Professor Lai-Xi Wang of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry are among 162 new NAI fellows who represent 118 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide and collectively hold over 4,600 U.S. patents.

They join 12 other current faculty and staff members from UMD previously elected to the NAI, which was founded in 2010.

Dinesh Manocha
Dinesh Manocha

Manocha is an internationally recognized researcher in computer graphics, virtual reality, robotics and GPU computing. Throughout his career, he has transitioned his research into marketable technology through his research groups and startup companies.

His spinoff company, Impulsonic, was acquired in 2016 by Valve, a leading digital distributor for PC gaming, resulting in the company’s sound rendering system being incorporated in Valve’s Steam Audio SDK. His technology is also incorporated into Audio SDK and VR products produced by Facebook/Meta Reality Labs.

A major current focus is robotics and artificial intelligence. Robot motion planning and multi-agent simulation, including the first real-time high-DoF (degrees of freedom) proximity systems and planners, have been developed into a robot operating system used by many in the academic community and in industry. His work in robotics, particularly in autonomous mobile robot navigation, has resulted in collaborations with Amazon and the U.S. Army Research Lab.

“I am honored to be selected to the rank of NAI fellow. I am grateful for the strong support I have received from all the units at UMD, including the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the Office of the Vice President for Research, UM Ventures, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS),” he said.

Manocha has published more than 700 papers, co-authored 11 books and monographs, and holds 11 patents and seven pending patent applications. He has supervised more than 40 Ph.D. dissertations, and members of his research groups have received 20 best paper and Test-of-Time awards.

Among his honors are the NSF CAREER Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, the Honda Research Initiative Award, Google Faculty Awards, Facebook Faculty Awards, the Verisk AI Award, the Northrop Grumman Faculty Award and the Hettleman Prize for scholarly achievement. He is a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and IEEE, and is a member of ACM SIGGRAPH Academy.

“Dinesh’s work in robotics and artificial intelligence is at the leading edge of both fields, and we are incredibly proud to see his contributions and accomplishments recognized,” said Clark School Dean Samuel Graham, Jr. “Maryland Engineering is home to world-class faculty who develop innovations that improve society and inspire others around them. Dinesh is clearly a leader in this regard, and we are happy to see him receive this prestigious recognition.”

Lai-Xi Wang
Lai-Xi Wang

Wang is a leading carbohydrate chemist known for his expertise in glycoscience (the study of carbohydrates), enzymology and immunology. In 2015, he founded GlycoT Therapeutics to develop new therapeutic technologies to fight human disease. The company has been awarded six Small Business Innovation Research grants from the U.S. government, including one to develop an improved anti-inflammatory drug and another to develop site-specific antibody-drug conjugates for cancer therapy.

Wang invented an efficient method for using enzymes to chemically produce antibodies with well-defined, homogeneous sugar groups, opening the door for studying how the structure of sugar groups affects antibody function at the molecular level. He also developed a general platform technology for glycoengineering therapeutic antibodies, which expanded to the production of site-specific antibody-drug conjugates for targeted cancer therapy.

Wang was also among the first to pursue the concept of a carbohydrate-based HIV vaccine. Following successful initial tests, he and colleagues are working with collaborators to test it in animal models.

“I am deeply honored to be selected as an NAI fellow,” Wang said. “It’s an important recognition of the hard work, creativity and innovative spirit of the Wang Lab in the past two decades. I appreciate my department, CMNS and the university for providing an outstanding platform for us to do both basic and translational research and to educate the next generation of scientists, scholars and inventors.”

Wang has been awarded 20 U.S. and 14 foreign patents. He receives significant research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense.

He is a fellow of both the AAAS and the American Chemical Society (ACS). He received the 2014 Melville L. Wolfrom Award and the 2004 Young Investigator Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry from ACS and was inducted into the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars in 2009.

“Congratulations to Distinguished University Professors Manocha and Wang on this outstanding achievement," said CMNS Dean Amitabh Varshney. "This announcement is a clear sign of their accomplishments as scholars and inventors and the national reputation of the University of Maryland in pursuing scientific research with impact.”



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