IEEE Fellow Invents a Neck-Support System for ALS Patients, and an LED Pioneer Is Honored

Members who made headlines this month

20 October 2017

Five IEEE members and two Fellows were elected to the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering. They are:

Member David Cumming, head of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering; Fellow John L. Hennessy, director of Stanford’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars program; Member Graeme Malcolm, CEO of M Squared Lasers; Member Graham Reed, silicon photonics professor at the University of Southampton; Member Paul Watson, computer science professor at Newcastle University; Fellow Alex Yakovlev, professor of computer system design at Newcastle; and Member Antoni Ziolkowski, petroleum geoscience professor at the University of Edinburgh.


Fellow K.J. Ray Liu’s startup, Origin Wireless, was featured in an Engadget article. The company has developed a home-security system that can detect movement, down to something as subtle as a person breathing.

The Time Reversal Machine system is a mesh network consisting of two or more routers. When set up in a room—or on a floor of a building—the system can detect motion with an accuracy of 1 to 2 centimeters.

Liu, founder of Origin, in Greenbelt, Md., is on the IEEE Board of Directors. He is also professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park. Liu is a member of the IEEE Communications, IEEE Computer, and IEEE Signal Processing societies.


Member Shuji Nakamura received a Mountbatten Medal from the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He was cited for his “pioneering development of blue LEDs as high-efficiency, low-power light sources, and in particular their contribution to the reduction of the world’s carbon footprint.”

The creation of blue LEDs was the last step in creating white LEDs (combining red, green, and blue light), which are now incorporated in smartphones, computer screens, and energy-efficient light bulbs.

Nakamura, who shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the blue LED, is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He is a member of the IEEE Communications Society.


Life Fellow Charles Robinson has invented an affordable head- and neck-support system for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive degenerative disease that causes muscle weakness and atrophy. For his invention, he was chosen as clinical panel winner of the Innovation Competition at the annual Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals conference, held in September in Denver.

Robinson is a professor of computer and electrical engineering at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, N.Y. He designed a collar that can keep a person’s head and neck upright. The collar is composed of PVC pipe, fittings, flanges, dowels, and a padded Velcro strap. The collar is anchored to a wood-based armchair or a wheelchair to provide stability. The materials cost about US $60, and the collar can be assembled without engineering expertise. According to an article on Clarkson University’s website, Robinson doesn’t plan to manufacture the support system, but the design plans are freely available to anyone who wants to use them.

He is a member of the IEEE Computational Intelligence and IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology societies as well as the IEEE Biometrics Council.


Member Rosalind Sadleir received a $2 million grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to study transcranial electrical stimulation (TES), a noninvasive procedure in which electrodes are placed on a person’s scalp to direct a low current through the brain. The technique might eventually help treat a variety of ailments and improve cognitive function and learning ability.

Sadleir is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Arizona State University, in Tempe. To form a clearer picture of how a current travels through the brain, she is using magnetic resonance electrical impedance tomography, according to an article on ASU’s website. Patients are treated with TES while inside an MRI machine, which allows researchers to measure where the current spreads.

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

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