Professors Gary Pope and Livia Eberlin honored at the 8th annual Inventor Awards

Kevin Dural

The Office of Technology Commercialization at UT hosted its 8th Annual Inventor Awards on Thursday, recognizing the 2018 Inventor and Emerging Inventor of the Year. Petroleum Engineering professor Gary Pope took home the 2018 Inventor of the Year award and chemistry assistant professor Livia Eberlin was named the 2018 Emerging Inventor of the Year.

Gary Pope, faculty member at UT for over 41 years, is the director of the Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and is a Texaco Centennial Chair in Petroleum Engineering. Pope’s work includes chemical technology that aids in recovering oil or other natural gas for extraction or cleanup.

“All of the work that I do has a couple of things in common: it’s related to the subsurface and extracting energy from deep geological formations,” he said. “Almost all of my work involves chemicals, specifically the stuff you read about every day.”

Pope said his research enables humans to extract a little more natural gas or oil from rocks than other methods. This is done through the addition of chemicals, known as detergents, that are inserted into hard-to-reach areas to dissolve the resources for extraction.

The event featured remarks by UT President Gregory Fenves, who said that inventors possess the drive to take an idea out of chaos to create a worthwhile solution.

“What inventors do is fight through the chaos and turn that idea into reality,” he said. “They fight until it’s rendered in three dimensions or abstractly as a new idea somebody thinks is valuable.”

Fenves added that these faculty members distinguished themselves with their boldly creative ideas and the ability to turn them into inventions.

“For decades, he (Pope) has done those kinds of inventions year after year,” he said. “Dr. Pope has worked to transform the way we think about energy and how we use precious natural resources to power our technology of everyday life.”

Livia Eberlin was recognized for her work on the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that provides feedback in seconds on whether a tissue sample is normal or cancerous. Since her invention’s feature on Grey’s Anatomy earlier this year, she has received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, informally known as the “Genius Grant.” As for being named the 2018 Emerging Inventor of the Year, Eberlin said that part of the honor stems from being labeled an inventor and the implication that she is producing something useful.

“There’s something really cool about being an inventor in addition to a scientist,” Eberlin said. “It really connotes a transformative nature of our work.”

Fenves described her achievements as “superhuman” and “unparalleled.”

Daniel Jaffe, Vice President of Research at UT,  said the University contributes to knowledge in three ways: educating future leaders, publishing literature and producing tangible inventions. What distinguishes the third, said Jaffe, is that it provides relatively instantaneous value to society.

“We’re always excited to honor researchers,” Jaffe said. “At the same time, today’s awards recognize those who have found a way to immediately benefit society.”