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Eric Beckman elected newest National Academy of Inventors Fellow from University of Pittsburgh

Beckman is recognized for advances in molecular design, biomedical polymers, green product engineering, and sustainability

PITTSBURGH (December 8, 2020) ... Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors 2020 cohort. 

Beckman is the eighth Pitt faculty member to be named an NAI Fellow, and the second with a primary appointment in the Swanson School. He has nearly 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, 26 book chapters, and receipt of 40 U.S. patents with more pending. 

“Eric truly is a holistic engineer who understands and exemplifies the connections between academics, research, student engagement, and lifelong learning,” noted James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “His dedication to imbuing sustainability throughout engineering has not only impacted our Swanson School community, but also the entire university and our many colleagues across the country. He is most deserving of this honor which represents creating new knowledge that benefits the human condition.”

Beckman’s research focuses on molecular design, biomedical polymers, green product engineering, and sustainability. In 2003, shortly after he became interim chair of chemical and petroleum engineering, he co-founded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) through a gift from alumnus John C. “Jack” Mascaro (BSCE ’66, MSCE ’80), with the mission of catalyzing sustainability innovation and education across the University and in the region. MCSI is also co-host, with Carnegie Mellon University, of the biennial Engineering Sustainability Conference. 

Dr. Beckman’s research group examines the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation and in the design of materials for use in tissue engineering. In 2005, he co-founded Cohera Medical Inc. to commercialize surgical adhesive technology developed at the University. Dr. Beckman took an entrepreneurial leave of absence from the University in 2007-2009 to help move the products to market. 

Beckman is currently leading a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and NineSigma, in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, to develop innovations to reduce the amount of plastics that end up being burned or buried in landfills, or make their way into the world’s waterways and oceans. Part of the foundation’s Circular Materials Challenge, the research focus has generated additional funding from the National Science Foundation for other faculty at the Swanson School engaging in circular economy issues, particularly global waste

His dedication to student learning and engagement earned funding from the Heinz Endowments to create a “Sustainable Entrepreneurship” course, followed by a three-course innovation sequence: Introduction to Business Principles; Product Design for Chemical Engineers; and Chemical Product Prototyping. Some students from these courses have successfully competed in the University’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition and launched their own startup companies. 

“Eric is one of the leading tissue engineering researchers in the country and his inventions in this field were groundbreaking,” added Steven R. Little, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt. “However, a true inventor is also a mentor, advisor, and colleague who shares his expertise with others and guides them toward their own creative success. For this he is truly deserving of joining the NAI.”

Other NAI fellows at Pitt include:

  • Stephen F. Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD, Professor of Surgery, Deputy Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM), and Director of the Center for Pre-Clinical Tissue Engineering at MIRM (secondary appointment in Bioengineering)
  • Rory A. Cooper, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research for STEM-Health Sciences Collaborations, and founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (secondary appointment in Bioengineering)
  • William Federspiel, Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering, and founder of ALung Technologies (secondary appointment in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering)
  • Mir Imran, adjunct faculty in Bioengineering, Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program, and CEO of InCube Labs
  • Rob Rutenbar, Senior Vice Chancellor for Research (joint appointments in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science)
  • Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of The Chinese University of Hong Kong; at Pitt the former Director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering; the Arthur J. Rooney Sr. Professor and Executive Vice Chair, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery; Associate Director, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine; and Director, Center for Military Medicine Research (secondary appointments in Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science)
  • William R. Wagner, Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Distinguished Professor of Surgery (secondary appointments in Bioengineering and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering)


Author: Amerigo Allegretto and Paul Kovach

Contact: Paul Kovach