Homeland security is tighter today thanks to work by a NCSU professor, and she is being honored for those efforts.

Frances Ligler, a professor at NC State’s College of Engineering, is among the latest scientists selected for the National Investors Hall of Fame.

Ligler is being recognized for her work in developing optical biosensors which are used to identify pathogens, toxins or explosives among other threats. Her research has led to development of more than 10 commercial biosensor products.

“I am humbled and honored to be in such great company,” Ligler says. “As an inventor who has enjoyed making things from my earliest childhood years, I look forward to partnering with the National Inventors Hall of Fame to inspire the next generation of creative scientists and engineers, especially young women who aspire to be inventors in their own right.”

The honor is not the first Ligler has received for her career, which includes work on more than 375 patents and related publications. She was named to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005, and in 2012 President Obama awarded Ligler with the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Professional.

Ligler worked at the Naval research Laboratory from 1985 to 2013, retiring as a senior scientist for biosensors and biomaterials.

The Inventors Hall of Fame works in conjunction with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“Ligler is recognized for her innovative application of emerging technologies in a variety of fields to make optical biosensors smaller, more versatile and more sophisticated,” the Invenstors Hall of Fme says. “Thanks to her work conducted at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), biosensors have moved out of the lab and into use for food safety, disease diagnosis, pollution control and homeland security.”

Ligler, 65, joined NCSU’s faculty in 2013.

Inductee profile: Frances Ligler

  • Frances Ligler
  • Portable Optical Biosensors
  • US Patent No. 5,077,210
  • Inducted in 2017
  • Born June 11, 1951

A biosensor is a device using biological molecules to detect a chemical or biological target. Frances Ligler developed a new chemistry for attaching biomolecules on sensor surfaces that maintained their functionality far better than prior approaches and then integrated emerging technologies from a variety of fields to make optical biosensors smaller, more versatile, and more automated. The resulting biosensors have moved out of the lab and into food production plants, clinics in developing countries, pollutant cleanup sites, and areas of concern for military and homeland security.

In 1986, Ligler joined the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, where she and her colleagues developed automated biosensors, including point-of-use sensors for continuous monitoring. The biosensors were configured for manual addition of samples (sample in-answer out) or for automated sampling of air while flying on a drone or of water while deployed on an unmanned undersea vehicle. These biosensors provide quick results, identifying and quantifying pathogens, toxins, pollutants, drugs of abuse, or explosives.

During Operation Desert Storm, Ligler was instrumental in producing tactical sensors for botulinum toxin and anthrax. Ligler’s subsequent incorporation of microfluidic channels and miniaturized optics enabled portable devices into which users could simply inject a sample for testing. With the consequent small size and automation, the Ligler group demonstrated the first airborne biosensor for biological warfare agents. Ligler’s group developed the underlying technology for the RAPTOR portable, automated biosensor, tested by NATO for use in analyzing biological toxins and pathogens, and used to test water deliveries to U.S. Navy ships in Bahrain. A more advanced system incorporated an array of biological detector molecules to identify pathogens in food or indicators of disease in clinical samples.

Ligler earned her B.S. in biology and chemistry from Furman University, and both a D.Phil. a D.Sc. from Oxford University. She holds 29 U.S. patents, and is currently on the faculty at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Source: National Inventors Hall of Fame