Khalil Najafi and Kensall Wise have been selected as the Distinguished University Innovators for 2011.
The pair is being honored for their role developing breakthrough technologies in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and working with colleagues, students and industry partners to move these innovations from university laboratories to new startups to further develop the technology into successful products. Over the last three decades, Najafi and Wise “have had a profound impact on microsystems technology through an enduring commitment to innovation and technology transfer,” wrote nominator Yogesh Gianchandani, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of mechanical engineering.
Najafi is the Schlumberger Professor of Engineering and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering (CoE), and is chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Wise is the William Gould Dow Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology, professor of biomedical engineering, and professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences in CoE.
Najafi and Wise, with colleague Nader Najafi, began to move their U-M research discoveries into the private sector — and initiated what has become a significant MEMS industry in Michigan — with the launch of Integrated Sensing Systems (ISSYS) in 1995. Then in 2000 Najafi and Wise brought the first National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems to U-M.
The technologies and concepts developed by the pair have led to products ranging from thermal detectors and neural probes to gas analysis systems and inertial sensors at several companies, including Stryker, Dexter Research, Evigia, NeuroNexus and ePack, as well as ISSYS. Over the life of the Wireless Integrated Microsystems center, 12 start-ups have been launched and several more companies are still expected to emerge.
“The contributions that Khalil Najafi and Ken Wise have made to the university and to the broader society cannot be underestimated,” says Stephen Forrest, vice president for research. “I applaud their outstanding research accomplishments coupled with their efforts to transfer knowledge to the private sector, while also supporting the efforts of colleagues and students to participate in the growth of an important new industry.”
Najafi and Wise will receive their award at a public ceremony this spring, where they will give a public address about their work. This event is open to the public, and a reception will follow. Once finalized, event details will be posted at research.umich.edu/ovpr/recognition-programs/innovator.
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