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Gregory Copenhaver surrounded by plants in his biology lab.
Gregory Copenhaver (photo by Donn Young)

Gregory Copenhaver, director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for Convergent Science, has been named a 2024 senior member by the National Academy of Inventors in recognition of his work as both an innovator and a mentor to future inventors.

The National Academy of Inventors comprises over 250 universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes across the globe and includes over 4,000 individual inventor members. The NAI announced this newest group of 124 senior members, the largest class to date with members from 60 member institutions, on Feb. 27.

Senior members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from the academy’s member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation-producing technologies that have a real impact on society. They are also fostering success in patents, licensing and commercialization while continuing to educate and mentor the next generation of inventors.

Collectively, Copenhaver and his academy peers are named inventors on over 1,000 U.S. patents.

“This year’s class of senior members is truly a testament to the outstanding innovation happening at NAI member institutions and what happens when the academic space encourages and celebrates invention and commercialization,” said Paul R. Sanberg, president of the academy.

The class will be celebrated at the National Academy of Inventors’ Annual Conference on June 16-18 in Raleigh.

Copenhaver has been a member of the UNC faculty since 2001. He has joint appointments as the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Convergent Science in both the department of biology within the College of Arts and Sciences and the Integrative Program for Biological and Genome Sciences within the UNC School of Medicine. He is the former associate dean for research and innovation in the College.

Copenhaver’s research focuses on chromosome dynamics and the mechanisms of inheritance. He is a named inventor on 22 U.S. and 14 foreign patents. He has authored or co-authored over 100 scholarly works and serves as the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal PLOS Genetics. He also co-founded the biotechnology company Chromatin, Inc.

Copenhaver was inducted into the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2021.

He said he was “deeply honored” by his induction into the National Academy of Inventors.

“Discovery, and the generation of knowledge are their own rewards, but when you are lucky enough to have the privilege to use those as the basis for invention and societal benefit, it is like winning the scientific lottery,” Copenhaver said.

Dedric Carter, vice chancellor and chief innovation officer of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development at UNC-Chapel Hill, said Copenhaver is a champion for interdisciplinary research at Carolina.

“Greg has leveraged energy into the goals of the Institute for Convergent Science, seeking to increase opportunities for research translation in North Carolina and beyond,” Carter said. “This new honor is fitting and well aligned with our efforts to recognize and celebrate inventorship at UNC.”

By Andy Little ’24, College of Arts and Sciences

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