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Inventor to address SUNY Potsdam graduates at commencement

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POTSDAM - Revolutionary scientist and inventor Dr. Anthony B. Brennan ‘75 will encourage SUNY Potsdam students to unlock their full visionary potential, when he addresses graduating seniors at the college’s 2012 Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 20 in the Academic Quad.

The founder of Sharklet Technologies Inc. and the Margaret A. Ross Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida, Dr. Brennan will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the State University of New York. The SUNY Potsdam chemistry alumnus will also offer the keynote address to approximately 750 bachelor’s graduates, along with hundreds of their family members and friends.

“The college is proud to welcome Anthony Brennan as our Commencement speaker. In dedicating himself to advancing the boundaries of science, he has shown that the transformational power of insight and vision can lead to a whole new scientific pathway,” said President Dr. John F. Schwaller.

“Tony has set an impressive example for all SUNY Potsdam students and researchers. His far-sighted work has benefited not only his field and his students, but also patients across the globe.”

As a chemistry major at SUNY Potsdam 40 years ago, Anthony “Tony” Brennan learned an important lesson that would serve him well in his later distinguished career as a research scientist and professor. At Potsdam, Tony’s professors taught him that “nothing is easy, and you cannot take the path of least resistance when it comes to learning science.”

Originally from Natural Bridge, he went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from SUNY Potsdam, and then earned a Master of Science degree in chemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology, before receiving his Ph.D. in materials engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Today, Brennan leads a team of research scientists at the University of Florida who have devoted 20 years to developing a material that has the potential to save countless lives and prevent suffering from life-threatening infections. These infections, caused by bacteria that are often traced to the hospital environment, are estimated to impact more than 2 million patients annually and result in more than 99,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once manufactured, Sharklet™, the sharkskin-like material created by Brennan and his team, will protect humans from harmful bacteria without requiring the use of antibacterial chemicals or drugs. The first anticipated use of Sharklet™ will be on medical surfaces and devices that carry a high risk of infection. The product was originally developed for the Office of Naval Research, which was the first to invest in Brennan’s research in 1999. The Navy was interested in learning how to inhibit the growth of marine organisms such as algae and barnacles, which can be detrimental to the ocean environment.

Brennan’s research has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” on PBS’s “Nova,” , CNN, CBS News, the Wall Street Journal and in Wired, Fast Company, Discover and Popular Science magazines. “Sharklet” was even a featured answer on the Jeopardy game show in 2011.

Brennan and his team have authored or co-authored more than 150 publications, filed 27 invention disclosures and 12 patents. He has received a Johnson and Johnson Fellowship, a Dow-Corning Internship and a DuPont Young Faculty Award for three consecutive years. He is also a permanent member of the Bioengineering, Technology and Surgical Sciences Study Section, and he was named the Florida Blue Key Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida in 2007.

In 2009, Brennan returned to his alma mater as a Distinguished Alumni Speaker, presenting lectures in biology and chemistry and serving as keynote speaker at the annual career dinner for the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP). In addition to giving his time and talent to his alma mater, Brennan is also a member of the President’s Club.

His gratitude to his alma mater is tangible in his work with the College administration, faculty, students and alumni as he helps grow and nurture the unique vision of SUNY Potsdam, especially in his encouragement of excellence in undergraduate research.

A special guest will bestow Brennan with his honorary degree. SUNY Trustee Kaitlyn Beachner ‘08, the outgoing president of the SUNY Student Assembly and the current student representative on the SUNY Board of Trustees, will return to her alma mater to join the stage party, just four years after she spoke at her own Commencement as the graduating Student Government Association president.

To find out more about Commencement at SUNY Potsdam, visit www.potsdam.edu/academics/commencement.

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