Thompson Hailed as Innovator

Mark Thompson of chemistry is named a fellow by the National Academy of Inventors for demonstrating a “highly prolific spirit of innovation.”
ByRobert Perkins

USC Dornsife’s Mark Thompson will become a new fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), an elite group of innovators that includes 21 Nobel laureates from around the world.

Thompson and two other USC professors will be inducted into the three-year-old organization in a ceremony at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, on March 20. Behrokh Khoshnevis and Alan Willner of USC Viterbi School of Engineering will also receive the honors.

“USC’s fellows are not just outstanding researchers, but they also have the rare talent to produce innovations that help people in their everyday lives,” said Randolph Hall, USC vice president of research.

The professors join USC President C. L. Max Nikias, who was inducted as a charter member in 2012. The total number of NAI fellows now stands at 414, including 21 inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 16 recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and 10 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Science.

The new fellows, who will be inducted by Andrew Faile, deputy U.S. commissioner for patent operations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, were chosen because they “demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society,” according to a statement from the NAI.

If you own a Samsung phone with an organic light-emitting diode screen, you can thank Thompson for the device’s dazzling colors.

Thompson, who has a joint appointment at USC Viterbi, develops new materials and is perhaps best known for his work on OLED screens. He and his lab invented the molecules that make the colors red and green show up on the phone’s screen and are now working on white and blue.

“I am really honored to be named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors,” Thompson said. “This is a testament to the innovations that my research group and I have created in organic electronics and other fields. You spend a lot of time working and wondering if the right communities appreciate your contributions. This award shows that this aspect of our efforts is certainly being noticed.”

Since joining USC in 1995, Thompson has earned numerous accolades, including being named the 1998 Distinguished Inventor of the Year by The Intellectual Property Owners and later being ranked 12th on Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch list as one of the world’s most influential chemists of the past decade in 2011.

In addition to his work on OLEDs, Thompson is re-envisioning solar power by developing organic solar cells that would be ultra lightweight, flexible and durable — and competitive with the more established, older designs.