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From Left, Drs. Jayant Baliga, Donald Bitzer, Sylvia Blankenship and Frances Ligler
From Left, Drs. Jayant Baliga, Donald Bitzer, Sylvia Blankenship and Frances Ligler

Frances Ligler is part of a very distinguished group of women inventors in engineering. She is one of just six women who have been inducted into NIHF and elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors, another organization that celebrates American inventors in academia and the non-profit work sector.

The NIHF has inducted 603 people from the inventors of more than 10.7 million patents. Forty-five of these inductees are women. Of those 45 women, 22 are living. Of the 22 who are living, eight are either active or emerita faculty members at universities, and two are members of the NC State Wolfpack.

Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Alva Edison. Henry Ford. Steve Jobs.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) honors the best of American ingenuity. The 603 inventors who have been inducted since the organization’s founding in 1973 represent the brightest minds in the nation’s history and advancements that have truly changed the world.

NC State, and the College of Engineering, are very well represented. Four current NC State faculty members are NIHF inductees, three in the College of Engineering:

Dr. Jayant Baliga

Progress Energy Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (inducted in 2016)

Baliga’s insulated gate bipolar transistor is a semiconductor power switch used in household appliances, cars and heavy equipment that has been credited with reducing electricity consumption by 40 percent.

Dr. Donald Bitzer

Distinguished University Research Professor in the Department of Computer Science (inducted in 2013) Bitzer and two collaborators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created the first plasma display panel.

Dr. Sylvia Blankenship

Professor emerita and retired senior associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Science and its Department of Horticultural Science (inducted in 2020)

Blankenship and biochemist Dr. Edward Sisler identified 1-methylcyclopropene, a novel compound now used globally to extend the storage life of fruits, vegetables and cut floral products by mitigating the effects of ethylene. Sisler, who passed away in 2016 after a career on the NC State faculty, was also inducted into NIHF in 2020.

Dr. Frances Ligler

Ross Lampe Distinguished Professor in the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (inducted in 2017)

A biosensor is a device using biological molecules to detect a chemical or biological target. Ligler developed a new chemistry for attaching biomolecules on sensor surfaces that maintained their functionality far better than prior approaches and then integrated emerging technologies from a variety of fields to make optical biosensors smaller, more versatile and more automated.

When it comes to active or living emerita faculty members who are NIHF inductees, NC State ranks second in the world. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) leads the way with seven members and NC State and Stanford are tied for second with four apiece.

Return to contents or download the Fall/Winter 2020 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, MB).

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