UW Today

This is an archived article.

May 22, 2008

Here’s a chance to hear UW’s own innovators, geniuses

Bionic contact lenses. High-tech cell phones for rural Indian women. Privacy concerns related to new electronic gadgets.

The past year has brought unprecedented recognition for UW engineers who design technology to improve people’s lives. Next week, UW friends and community members will have a chance to find out what got national selection committees — for the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” fellowships and Technology Review‘s Young Innovators awards — so excited.

Five engineers will present the stories behind their award-winning research at the Henry Art Gallery Auditorium on Thursday, May 29, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. The free event is open to the public and is sponsored by the College of Engineering.

“I’m extremely proud of the high-profile research of our faculty,” said Matt O’Donnell, dean of the college. “We want to celebrate an unprecedented year of national accolades and recognize our winners. For the UW community, this is a great chance to hear firsthand about groundbreaking research that will help define the future of engineering.”

The public is welcome to attend all afternoon or drop in for a single talk. A reception honoring the winners will be held at the Henry Art Gallery at 5:30 p.m.

In one lecture, Yoky Matsuoka, associate professor of Computer Science & Engineering, will describe how brain signals can be used to control prosthetic hands. Her research combines the fields of neuroscience and robotics to create lifelike prosthetics that might someday be seamlessly attached to the human body.

In another talk, alumnus Marc Edwards will describe his work fighting for clean drinking water in Washington, D.C. In 2003 Edwards discovered that a disinfectant added to public drinking water supplies was leaching lead from older pipes, and that traditional testing methods failed to register the contamination. The following year Time magazine dubbed him the “plumbing professor” and featured him as one of the nation’s leading scientific innovators. His efforts have since expanded to other cities and to other toxins.

The afternoon’s speakers are:


  • 1 p.m. “Privacy respecting digital forensics.”

Yoshi Kohno, assistant professor of Computer Science & Engineering, works to assess and improve the security of current and future technologies. He is co-director of the Medical Device Security Center, and was named a top innovator by Technology Review in 2007. See previous UWeek article describing his work on security concerns related to the Nike + iPod Sport Kit and implanted medical devices here.


  • 2 p.m. “Designing appropriate computing technologies for the rural developing world.”

Tapan Parikh, affiliate professor of Computer Science & Engineering, creates high-tech gadgets for small business owners in rural developing parts of India, Africa, Asia and Latin America. While completing his doctorate in the UW’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering in 2007 he was named Technology Review‘s Humanitarian of the Year. See a previous University Week article describing his thesis research creating cell phones for microfinance cooperatives here


  • 2:50 p.m. “Self-assembly and the future of manufacturing.”

Babak Parviz, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering, works at the interface of biology and technology. His lab develops biologically inspired self-assembly methods for manufacturing at the small scale. He was named a young innovator by Technology Review in 2007. A recent UWeek article describes his research on electronic contact lenses here.


  • 3:45 p.m. “Neurobotics: Interfacing robot and nervous systems to understand and enhance human movement”

Yoky Matsuoka, associate professor of Computer Science & Engineering, is transforming our understanding of how the central nervous system coordinates musculoskeletal action. Her Neurobotics Laboratory at the UW uses robotic technology to enhance the mobility of people with manipulation disabilities. She received a MacArthur “genius” award in 2007 and also that year was named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10″ researchers.


  • 4:35 p.m. “Lead in drinking water & public health: A scientist’s descent into the activist netherworld.”

Marc Edwards, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech University, has received numerous awards for his work on compassionate engineering and public health related to drinking water supplies. Edwards received his master’s and doctoral degrees in the UW’s Department of Civil Engineering. He was awarded a MacArthur “genius” award in 2007.

For more information on the Innovators & Geniuses celebration, see http://www.engr.washington.edu/awards/innovatorsGeniuses.html.