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Milner Wins Inventor of the Year Award

The biomedical engineering professor was honored for his development of light-based therapeutic and diagnostic procedures that help doctors detect diseases like glaucoma and heart disease. [Video]

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Thomas Milner, professor of biomedical engineering, was named Inventor of the Year at the university’s annual Inventor Award Ceremony on Nov. 19. Milner’s inventions have helped physicians better detect and diagnose illnesses such as glaucoma and heart disease, and they have helped treat many dermatological conditions.

Inventor of the Year Thomas Milner

Thomas Milner received the award for his development of light-based therapeutic and diagnostic procedures that treat or prevent disease in humans. 

Milner pioneered the development of optical-based instrumentation application in clinical settings.

“As the holder of 35 patents and the author of five book chapters and 153 scholarly articles, Dr. Milner is a world-class intellect and a pioneer in the field of biomedical engineering and optical-based therapeutics,” said President Bill Powers. “We are fortunate that he has chosen The University of Texas at Austin as the home base of his career.”

Milner has developed a technology known as optical coherence tomography, which uses a fiber-optic interferometer in combination with a broadband light source to detect subsurface static and moving constituents in tissue such as red blood cells.

“The Inventor of the Year is chosen on the basis of the significance and novelty of a scientific discovery coupled with the commercial potential of the discovery,” said Dan Sharp, associate vice president of research and director of the Office of Technology Commercialization at the university, which organized the program to recognize the university’s researchers and inventors and their work they perform in their labs.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. If so, then surely education is the father. When the two come together in a place like The University of Texas at Austin, magnificent things happen.”
—President Powers

He took his research beyond the laboratory in co-founding CardioSpectra, Inc., a San Antonio-based company that was sold to the Volcano Corporation. The multimillion-dollar transaction has been named one of the greatest return-on-investments for Texas’ Emerging Technology Fund and has contributed significantly to San Antonio’s flourishing biotechnology sector. Milner’s inventions have been widely used during the past decade in clinical laser treatment systems offered globally by Candela Laser Company.

“I congratulate Professor Milner for his contributions and for the impact they will have on society. This truly exemplifies our institution’s motto, What Starts Here Changes the World,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research for the university. “I also applaud the efforts of all the university’s researchers and inventors,” said Sanchez.  “Their discoveries and wide-ranging intellectual contributions have positioned our university as a world-ranking research university.”

Milner holds the Marion E. Forsman Centennial Professorship in Engineering and is a Fellow with the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He received the 2002 Coherent Young Investigator Award in Biophotonics. He has received numerous research awards from private and national foundations, such as Clayton, Whitaker and the National Institutes of Health. He joined the faculty of UT Austin in 1998.

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This story is part of our yearlong series “Eyes on Innovation,” which explores UT’s world-changing ideas, fascinating discoveries and new ways of doing things.