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A National Inventors’ Day Salute to Terp Innovators

How Inventions Linked to UMD Have Made Our Lives Healthier, Less Tedious and Better Informed

By Maryland Today Staff

Collage showing google, upc, satellite ground station, computer lab

Collage Background texture: Shutterstock; top three images: Wikipedia; bottom image: The Terrapin; Collage by Stephanie S. Cordle.

In fields ranging from computing and health care to space exploration and communications technology, Terp inventors have embedded themselves in the fabric of modern life.

Admit it—it’s nice to let Google do some of your remembering for you. It’s even nicer to zip through checkout lines scanning UPC codes rather than keying in prices manually, saving time that you can now invest in playing Fortnite or another blockbuster game built on the Unreal Engine. 

But if University of Maryland-linked inventors and innovators hadn’t been hard at work in their labs, on their computers or in the productive confines of their own brains, none of these or other familiar staples of everyday life would exist.

And they keep inventing the advances of tomorrow, with four Terps inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the past 2 years: 

  • Rama Chellappa, a longtime electrical and computer engineering professor with an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), recognized for advances central to fields such as computer vision and machine learning;
  • Ray Liu, a Distinguished University Professor of electrical and computer engineering, honored for work in wireless AI technology that has revolutionized wireless communications;
  • Laurie E. Locascio, vice president for research, who holds 12 patents as a biomedical researcher and now oversees the joint University of Maryland research portfolio—one of the nation’s largest;
  • Min Wu, Distinguished Scholar-Teacher in electrical and computer engineering with an appointment in UMIACS, recognized for her innovations in signal processing, particularly for safeguarding multimedia content and forensics.

To mark National Inventors’ Day today, here’s a look at Terp inventions that have helped shape our lives:

Old Google homepageSergey Brin ‘93 co-founded Google while attending graduate school at Stanford University in 1998, upending with their online search engine how we find information and helping to make the internet the central technology of modern life. (Image credit: Wikipedia)


Robert BriskmanRobert Briskman M.S. ‘61 (center) led the technical development of Sirius Satellite Radio, immeasurably expending our choices in radio programming. He also invented the unified S-band system for NASA spacecraft, allowing a single antenna to handle voice, video and other transmissions. (Image courtesy of Robert Briskman)


Rita Colwell portraitDistinguished University Professor Rita Colwell in UMIACS developed computational and satellite-based approaches to track and predict disease outbreaks after making fundamental discoveries about how cholera spreads. Her latest work is leading advances in molecular diagnostics of human pathogens and antimicrobial resistance. (Image credit: University of Maryland)


Robert E. Fischell portraitRobert E. Fischell M.S. ’54, Sc.D. (honorary) ’96 has invented vital health care devices: the first implantable insulin pump, the rechargeable pacemaker; flexible stents for coronary arteries, and an implantable device to preempt epileptic seizures that he co-invented. (Image credit: University of Maryland)


George J. Laurer portraitGeorge J. Laurer ’51 invented the Universal Product Code (UPC) while working for IBM; the technology was first use for the purchase of Juicy Fruit chewing gum in Troy, Ohio in June 1974. (Image credit: University of Maryland)


Computer labGlenn Ricart Ph.D. ’80 created the first internet exchange point in College Park, connecting federal, commercial and non-commercial networks for the first time into a larger online universe. He also made UMD the first college campus fully wired for internet protocols. (Image credit: The Terrapin)


Ben Shneiderman portraitComputer Science Professor Emeritus Ben Shneiderman invented the concept of internet text itself serving as a link to other webpages or websites—the genesis of the now-ubiquitous hyperlink. (Image credit: University of Maryland)


FortniteTim Sweeney ‘93 created the leading Unreal Engine graphics software, which over its several generations has enabled some of the world’s most popular video games. One of them was Fortnite, published by Epic Games, which Sweeney started in his parents’ garage in Potomac, Md. (Image credit: Shutterstock)


Joseph WeberThe late physics Professor Joseph Weber co-invented the maser (which led to the laser—a related device using optical light); he’s better remembered as the father of gravitational wave detection. The maasive devices (above) he invented to measure these ripples in spacetime did not succeed, but technology inspired by his work in 2015 detected the merger of two neutron stars a billion light years away. (Image credit: University of Maryland)

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