Montana State University

MSU's new Regents Professor now honored by National Academy of Inventors

December 10, 2013 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

Anne Camper will be inducted March 7 as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).    High-Res Available

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BOZEMAN -- The newest Regents Professor at Montana State University has now been selected a Fellow of the only organization that honors university inventors.

Anne Camper, whose patents relate to water and food safety and the detection of potential bioterrorism agents, will be inducted March 7 as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Deputy U.S. Commissioner for Patents Andy Faile will install her during a ceremony at the headquarters of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va. Camper is MSU’s first NAI Fellow.

“To be named as a 2013 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors is a tremendous honor to me, Montana State University and the team of researchers who were responsible for our patents for detecting live versus dead bacteria,” Camper said. “Special recognition is due to Dr. Andreas Nocker, who was the lead on the project under which the technology was developed.

“Receiving this award on the back of being recognized as the 2013 Regents Professor is unbelievable,” Camper continued. “Although these honors have come to me, they truly belong to the team of talented staff and students I have worked with over the years.”

Camper was nominated an NAI Fellow by Rebecca Mahurin, director of MSU’s Technology Transfer Office. Letters of support came from MSU President Waded Cruzado and Ruth Cutright, corporate microbiologist at W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., of Flagstaff, Ariz.

NAI Fellows are selected for their outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation. NAI Fellows have 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. They also have made broad and significant contributions to their university.

“Anne certainly exemplifies this,” Mahurin said. “She has impacted women and minorities on campus. She has mentored students and faculty, including minorities. She has worked to provide safe water conditions on the Crow Indian Reservation. She is truly a leader for faculty, students and citizens of Montana and the world.”

Camper is co-inventor on patents that solve a major problem in detecting viable bacteria, Mahurin said.

 Discriminating between live cells and dead cells in the lab can be difficult, because genetic materials tend to be very stable even after cell death, Mahurin explained. But Camper’s patented method is fast and easy to perform. It likely will lead to the replacement of slow, traditional methods that are based on growing bacteria.

“This technology could help with everything from monitoring the safety of food and water to bioterrorism analysis,” Mahurin said. “MSU has licensed the technology to an international, molecular-diagnostic company.”

Cruzado said Camper’s greatest contributions to MSU and Montana relate to her interest and advocacy for minority education and research.

“Students who come to our university without the privileges that so many of us are accustomed to in our high school preparation for college are identified, mentored and assisted by Dr. Camper,” Cruzado said. “Dr. Camper has quietly and effectively advanced minority education here in Montana and has gained the respect, trust and admiration of leaders in our tribal colleges and reservations.”

Cutright said she became acquainted with Camper through her company’s involvement with MSU’s Center for Biofilm Engineering. Cutright said she has seen that Camper has been a key leader in ongoing research to solve real problems for various industrial applications. Camper has supported students in early undergraduate research, as well as postdoctoral fellows. She has promoted excellence in her students and maintained the drive to conduct research that is meaningful to the needs of industry and society.

“It is clear that Dr. Camper is very well respected as a principal scientist and worthy inventor by industry, students and colleagues at Montana State University and throughout the microbial biofilm community,” Cutright said.

Camper is currently serving a six-month term as MSU’s interim vice president for research, creativity and technology transfer. She is an international expert in water quality and biofilms and conducts her research in the Center for Biofilm Engineering. She is a civil engineering professor and associate dean for research and graduate education in MSU’s College of Engineering.

In November, the Montana Board of Regents selected Camper as a Regents Professor, the highest honor given to faculty members in the Montana University System. Camper was the eighth MSU professor, the first woman at MSU and the first faculty member in MSU’s College of Engineering to be chosen.

At upcoming induction, Camper and the other 2013 NAI Fellows will receive a trophy and rosette pin. They will be recognized in a full-page advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education and in a future issue of Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors.

The 143 innovators elected to NAI Fellow status represent 94 universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes. Besides MSU, which is a charter member of the NAI, some of those institutions include Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University and Dartmouth College. Together, the 2013 NAI Fellows hold more than 5,600 U.S. patents.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu