Keynton named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

December 14, 2017

Dr. Rob Keynton

UofL bioengineering researcher Robert S. Keynton has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). The announcement was made Dec. 12, 2017.

Keynton is a professor and the Lutz Endowed Chair of Biomechanical Devices of the Department of Bioengineering at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. Keynton was founding chair of the bioengineering department, which under his tenure grew into the most productive basic and translational research department in the Speed School. He is also the director of research initiatives in the office of the executive vice president for research and innovation.

“I am humbled by the nomination and support from my colleagues at UofL and I am truly honored to have been selected to be a member of the National Academy of Inventors and to be associated with such a prestigious group,” Keynton said.

Keynton’s research focuses on Lab-on-a-Chip devices, microsensors, biomedical devices and biomaterials. He joined UofL in 1999 and has co-founded three companies with UofL colleagues. His career has centered on multidisciplinary research, which includes more than $51 million of funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the Veterans Administration.

Keynton is the fifth UofL researcher to be named an NAI Fellow including  Kevin M. Walsh, Associate Dean of Research & Physical Facilities and Samuel T. Fife Endowed Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering in 2014.

The new NAI Fellows will be inducted April 5 as part of the Seventh Annual NAI Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection in Washington, DC.

As an undergrad, Keynton studied engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech. Upon the completion of his degree, he attended the University of Akron for his master’s and PhD, focusing specifically on cardiovascular fluid mechanics.

“There is a history of my grandfather on my dad’s side, he had a heat stroke. It’s cardiovascular related," he said. "My grandfather on my mother’s side, died from cardiovascular disease. I wanted to do research in that area that would help people down the road.”

His first teaching position was as an assistant professor at  Louisiana Tech University. There Keynton developed an interested in micro/nano technology, training himself on the matter in their clean room, before moving to Louisville for his ongoing tenure in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. In that time, Keynton has has been involved in multidisciplinary research that includes over $48 million (over $16 M currently active) of funding from NIH, NSF, DHS, DOE, DoD, NASA, Coulter Foundation, Helmsley Trust and the Veterans Administration. That research has included work on explosive detection systems, spinal cord rehabilitation, and heavy metal sensors that can help prevent water contamination, among many others.

“Those were all fun projects. They resulted in things that have been continuous entities within the university that are recognized," said Keynton. "I like to build things, I like to grow things. That’s why helping to build the department was fun. Now, by moving into the EVPRI office, I get to build more things.”

With each successive project at the University, Keynton has expanded his scope, pulling back from the specificity of the MNTC to his work helping to craft the Bioengineering Department, and now in his role as director of Research Initiatives. It’s there that Keynton hopes to continue his multi-disciplinary work in growing the university’s research opportunities.

“When I was the department chair, I’ve always enjoyed working and mentoring with their faculty to help them be successful. Within six years, we were number one in research in 6 years. That’s the kind of faculty I work with, who have a passion for their research,” said Keynton. “On a personal level, it is nice to have your work recognized and appreciated and have others see the value in it. All the work that we’ve been doing over the years to see that we’ve been contributing to society as a whole.”