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Georgetown University faculty inducted into the National Academy of Inventors

Dr. Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak, Dr. Jill Smith, and Dr. Kai Liu at the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) 12th Annual Meeting and Induction Ceremony held on June 27, 2023, in Washington, DC.

Jill Smith and Kai Liu are recognized for their contributions to innovation
Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak becomes an honorary member

Founded in 2010, the National Academy of Inventors (“NAI”) recognizes academic inventors who have created or facilitated outstanding inventions that make a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society. Election to the rank of an NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors.

Dr. Jill Smith of the Departments of Medicine and Oncology, and Dr. Kai Liu of the Department of Physics, were recently inducted as Fellows into the prestigious NAI at the organization’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. The University celebrates this recognition by the NAI of the important contributions of our faculty in their respective fields. Dr. Smith and Dr. Liu’s innovative mindsets and their ability to transform ideas into tangible solutions have played a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge and pushing the boundaries of innovation in their respective fields.

Dr. Smith is a highly accomplished clinical scientist, board-certified gastroenterologist, and hepatologist. In addition to her university appointments, Dr. Smith is a Staff Physician at the DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, specializing in gastrointestinal and hepatology-related disorders. Having previously served as the Director of Clinical & Translational Research Studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Smith joined Georgetown University in 2014 to establish a translational research program focused on gastrointestinal and liver disorders. Her leadership and mentoring abilities have gained national recognition, including chairing workshops for the National Cancer Institute and holding prominent positions within the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) and the American Pancreas Association (APA). She is the first female President of the APA and has received international accolades for her research contributions.

“As a Physician Scientist, my passion has always been conducting bench-to-bedside research. Pancreatic cancer holds the poorest prognosis of all solid cancers, and there are limited treatment options. My research has focused on developing target-specific therapies for pancreatic cancer to decrease tumor growth and improve survival”.

Dr. Jill Smith

Dr. Smith has made significant discoveries that have a high probability of altering the treatment course and prognosis for millions of patients around the world. Dr. Smith has developed a CCK-B receptor-targeted nanoparticle that has potential clinical implications by the identification of those at high risk or early stage disease with pancreatic cancer. Her work in the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis to prevent hepatocellular cancer is addressing one of the most rapidly increasing and leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide. Both of these are underserved areas in our scientific community, and the clinical and translational scientific communities have recognized the work she is doing as highly valuable and important.

Dr. Liu is Professor and McDevitt Chair in the Department of Physics, and affiliated faculty of the Earth Commons Institute. He has made key contributions to the fields of nanomagnetism and spintronics. He was the Theme Leader of a major Research Center on Spintronics Materials for Advanced infoRmation Technologies (SMART), funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation and NIST. He is currently the Chair of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Commission on Magnetism. He was the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellowship. He is also an elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK), American Physical Society, IEEE, and AAAS. In 2021-2022 he was selected as a Phase 1 Winner and Phase 2 Finalist of the BARDA-NIOSH Mask Innovation Challenge. Dr. Liu’s research focuses on the synthesis and experimental investigation of nanostructured materials, particularly in nanomagnetism and spintronics, which have potential applications in magnetic recording, low-dissipation information storage, and nanoelectronics.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition. It is an amazing acknowledgment of our work, done together with all my students and postdocs over the years, as well as with my collaborators. I have been most fortunate to work with these talented people to turn wild dreams into reality.”

Dr. Kai Liu

Recently, Dr. Liu was selected as a recipient of the University’s 2023 Gap Fund award for translational research for his project titled “Nanoporous Foam Based Multifunctional Filters Against Multi-hazards” in recognition of the project’s outstanding merit and potential to make significant contributions to the field.  The nanoporous foams are useful as an active filter media for efficient deep submicron particulate filtration and offer comparable efficiencies and breathability as N95 face masks; they are lightweight and can be easily cleaned, reused, and recycled. The foams can be readily integrated with other mask designs, either as the filtration media themselves or as inserts or cartridges.

Dr. Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak joined Georgetown University in February 2023 as Vice President in the Office of Technology Commercialization to lead the technology transfer efforts focused on the growth and support of innovation and faculty entrepreneurship at Georgetown.  She previously held the position of Associate Vice President of Innovation Ventures at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.  The honorary NAI membership is a special recognition bestowed upon leaders and representatives within an institution and local community who have played a significant role in fostering innovation and promoting economic development.

Honorary member