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2015 Distinguished University Innovator Award

Stephen Forrest, former vice president for research and one of the university's most prolific inventors, was named the Distinguished University Innovator Award for 2015.

Sponsored by the Office of Research, the award honors faculty members who have made important and lasting contributions to society by developing novel ideas and insights through their research, and then translating them to practice.

"Steve is an extraordinarily successful researcher, inventor, entrepreneur and mentor," says S. Jack Hu, interim vice president for research. "And as vice president, he played a key role in strengthening the support for faculty interested in entrepreneurship and engagement with industry."

Forrest was honored for his groundbreaking work in physics and materials science that has laid the groundwork for novel applications in fiber optic communications, imaging arrays, illumination devices, photovoltaics and screen displays. He is particularly noted for his pioneering work in the use of organic (carbon-based) materials in electronic devices.

He holds 271 patents, more than 95 percent of them licensed to companies around the world.

To translate technologies developed in his laboratory into practice, Forrest has helped found five companies.

NanoFlex Power Corp., his most recent venture, is aimed at commercializing ultrahigh-efficiency gallium arsenide thin-film solar cells, as well as cells made of organic materials that are flexible enough to be applied to surfaces in a wide range of contours and shapes.

For example, an important early application of organic solar cells is in "building-integrated photovoltaics" where the colorful and semitransparent devices are applied to windows and building surfaces to generate power.

Forrest is the Paul G. Goebel Professor of Engineering, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, professor of physics, and professor of material science and engineering. He was vice president for research from 2006-13.

Forrest's achievements build on a strong base of research and scholarship. He is the author or co-author of more than 565 papers, which have received more than 85,000 citations in Google Scholar, and has delivered more than 660 talks at professional meetings.

Over the course of his career, he has mentored 52 Ph.D. students and 27 postdoctoral fellows and research scientists. Many of his former students have gone on to be leaders in their fields as university faculty, leaders of companies, and entrepreneurs.

The Distinguished University Innovator Award was established in 2007. The winner is chosen by the vice president for research on the recommendation of a selection committee, which reviews a pool of nominees each year.

This year's public award ceremony took place May 5 in the Stamps Auditorium in the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus. After receiving the award, Forest delivered a lecture titled "An Academic's Adventures in Business."