For creating technologies that have the potential to change the world and providing opportunities for future inventors, Muhammad Rabnawaz, an associate professor and Faculty Laureate in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University, will be inducted into the National Academy of Inventors as a senior member on June 26.
The NAI senior member program was established to highlight academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that hold the promise of making a tangible impact on the public’s quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Election to NAI senior member status is an elite professional distinction extended solely to academic inventors.
Rabnawaz is being recognized for his research career developing energy-efficient strategies for recycling commonly used plastics, such as polyethylene terephthalate (recycling code 1) and polystyrene (recycling code 2). He also has created novel coating materials for water and oil-repellent paper to replace single-use plastic and polyfluoroalkyl substances of PFAS-free self-cleaning surfaces for packaging and nonpackaging applications. These inventions have led to 45 patents and counting.
“For every patent, there are tens of ideas that didn’t work and failure is commonplace for achieving anything big in life,” said Rabnawaz. “When I first joined the field of packaging, I wasn’t thinking about inventing things at all and now it has become my passion.”
The NAI’s application process is rigorous; not only do nominees need to demonstrate success creating multiple inventions, but they also need to demonstrate a commitment to providing opportunities for future inventors and inventions.
“We provide cross-disciplinary training to our students to prepare them to solve today’s bigger problems,” said Rabnawaz. “I empower my team members by giving them authority to express their hidden creativity and I encourage my team to take risks without worrying of failure, as each failure brings you one step closer to the solution.”
Rabnawaz is one of 96 distinguished inventors who will be inducted during the ceremony for their contributions and legacy. Rabnawaz and his team have an ambitious goal of creating sustainable packaging materials that will leave behind zero waste.
“We are not the only ones looking into this and there are very smart, intelligent people working across the globe on this problem,” said Rabnawaz. “I am so proud of my team because they are working toward a noble mission of protecting our planet from the pollution created by conventional plastic and other packaging waste.”
Rabnawaz is excited to see how far his students will take his ideas into the future.
“It is an amazing thing where I am today,” said Rabnawaz. “I am thankful to the leadership at the School of Packaging, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and MSU for their excellent support and encouragement. My family, friends and mentors also deserve a huge shout-out for standing by me no matter what. I’m so excited to be part of this and getting inducted as a senior member to the National Academy of Inventors.”