2008 Class of Fellows Make History

This year marked the highest number of women being elevated to Fellow since IEEE was established

6 June 2008

Congratulations to the 27 women named IEEE Fellow this year. It’s the highest number of women elevated to that prestigious membership grade in a single year since IEEE was established.

Four of the Fellows have something in common: they’re inventors elevated in the Fellow program’s research engineer/scientist category, and three of them work in industry. Janet Jackel, Radia Perlman, Keyue Smedley, and Jinyun Zhang all hold patents for groundbreaking work.

janetOPTICAL WHIZ Jackel, a researcher with Telcordia Technologies in Red Bank, N.J., whose career spans more than 30 years, was elevated to Fellow for her contributions to optical communications.

One of her early inventions was a method for creating optical waveguides on lithium niobate, a crystal material that can be used to make fast optical modulators and switches. Typically, waveguides are created by high-temperature diffusion of titanium patterns into the crystal. Back in 1980, Jackel, along with co­inventor Catherine Rice, found an alternative, lower-temperature method when they discovered that protons (hydrogen ions) from molten materials could move quickly into the lithium niobate crystal. That also caused the waveguides to carry the light of only one polarization instead of the typical two—which turned out to be a useful complement to the older method, Jackel says. Today her proton exchange method is used to enhance the function of the titanium-diffused waveguides.

INTERNET INNOVATOR Perlman, a specialist in network and security protocols for Sun Microsystems in Sammamish, Wash., was elevated for her work in the field. Also a Sun Fellow, she is sometimes referred to as the “mother of the Internet” thanks to her invention of the spanning tree algorithm, the key to network bridging and switches. The algorithm is also essential to the wireless IEEE Std. 802.1d. Her Ph.D. thesis on routing in the presence of malicious failures remains the most important work in routing security. Her other contributions dealt with credentials download, strong password protocols, and efficient certification revocation. She holds more than 90 patents and was named by Network World and Data Communications magazines as one of 20 people who have most changed the industry.

keyuePOWER PRO Smedley was recognized for her work in high-performance switching power converters. She invented the one-cycle control (OCC) method for switching power converters, used today in high-power rectification, active harmonic filtering, and VAR generation essential for modernizing the power grid, as well as in professional audio amplifiers. Smedley, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Irvine, is director of the university’s Power Electronics Laboratory.

Before Smedley’s invention, the control of switching-mode converters was more complex. She took advantage of the nonlinear feature of a switching circuit to develop more stable, faster, and accurate converters. The complexity of three-phase power converters was reduced about tenfold and the size and weight of the amplifiers nearly sevenfold, while performance and efficiency were substantially improved. Things also got quieter.

“The noise you hear in a switching-mode amplifier is not enjoyable, and OCC had the speed to take that noise out,” she says. “It was a perfect marriage when OCC met the switching circuit.”

Smedley’s work also led to new applications in transportation, power electronics, renewable energy generation, and the dynamic control of power grids.

WIRELESS WONDER Zhang was recognized for contributions to broadband wireless transmission and networking technology. A group manager of digital communications at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories, in Cambridge, Mass., she is credited with developing ultra­wideband (UWB) technology for home entertainment networks. She played a pivotal role in developing several high-profile UWB standards, in particular IEEE Std. 802.15.3a and IEEE Std. 802.15.4a. She also pioneered the development of ad hoc networking and routing technology and the ZigBee standard for low-power, low-cost, self-organizing, and self-healing networks.

If you know of an IEEE senior member—female or male—doing outstanding work as an application engineer/practitioner, educator, research engineer/scientist, or technical leader, it’s not too early to consider nominating that person for Fellow for the class of 2010. The deadline for nominations is 1 March 2009.

For more information, visit the Fellows website.

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