An Electric-Airplane Startup Takes Off and a Better Way to Measure Electricity in Animal Cells

IEEE members made headlines this month

30 May 2017

IEEE Fellow Mung Chiang was named dean of engineering at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind. He will be replacing former IEEE President Leah Jamieson.

Previously he was a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University, where he founded the Edge Lab, which focuses on optimizing communications networks by addressing problems concerning wireless systems and the Internet.

Chiang received the 2012 IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Award “for demonstrating the practicability of a new theoretical foundation for the analysis and design of communication networks.” He is a member of the IEEE Communications, IEEE Computer, and IEEE Education societies.


IEEE Fellow Kiruba Haran launched a startup that aims to get electric airplanes flying nationwide in the next 10 years.

Haran helped found Zunum Aero, a company in Kirkland, Wash., that is developing hybrid gas-electric aircraft. The planes are expected to have a range of around 1,200 kilometers, carry 10 to 50 passengers, and travel between regional airports. Zunum Aero is shooting for a 40 percent decrease in travel time on the busiest U.S. routes, with a corresponding ticket price cut. The first Zunum Aero planes could generate 80 percent fewer emissions, and the company is pushing toward zero emissions as its planes go all electric.

Haran is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is a member of the IEEE Magnetics and IEEE Power & Energy societies as well as the IEEE Standards Association and the IEEE Transportation Electrification Community.


IEEE Fellow Kristina Johnson was appointed chancellor of the State University of New York. SUNY has 29 four-year colleges and universities and 30 community colleges throughout the state—which are attended by roughly 440,000 students.

One of Johnson’s priorities is to increase access and graduation rates for low-income students, she says. She told The New York Times she plans to focus on environmental sustainability and create an individualized model of education to help students identify their interests early on.

Previously Johnson was senior vice president and provost at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. She served as undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Energy in the Obama administration, and she founded Enduring Hydro, an energy firm in Chevy Chase, Md.


IEEE Member Jeffrey Joines received an Alumni Association Outstanding Extension and Outreach Award from North Carolina State University, in Raleigh. He and colleague Jesse Jur were honored for their outreach efforts on behalf of the university’s College of Textiles.

Joines, an associate professor and head of the textile engineering, chemistry, and science department, was the driving force behind the creation in 2012 of a multiyear partnership between N.C. State and HanesBrands, a clothing manufacturer in nearby Winston-Salem. The partnership led to an on-campus presence for the company, which established a recruitment program for recent graduates. The partnership has brought in millions of U.S. dollars to the university by funding educational projects and pairing students with Hanes researchers to work on R&D efforts.

Joines is a member of the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society.


IEEE Member Jacob Robinson was feature in an article on Phys.org for a process he helped develop to measure the electrical activity in cells of small animals. The technique allows an animal, like a worm, to be tested again and again and could revolutionize data-gathering for disease characterization and drug interactions.

Robinson is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, in Houston. His research team invented nanoscale suspended electrode arrays—nano-SPEARs for short—to access electrophysiological signals from the cells of small animals without hurting the creatures. Nano-SPEARs are designed to replace traditional glass pipette electrodes, which must be aligned by hand each time they’re used.

Robinson is a member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

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