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Updated 10:00 AM March 5, 2007




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Russel lecturer works small systems to tackle big issues

Kensall Wise envisions a day when people will wear wrist watch-sized devices with U-M-developed micro sensors to measure the air quality around them. The sensors could feed into networks measuring the entire globe, detecting threats as soon as they appear.
(File Photo/Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

"We are getting to the point where we will be able to measure almost anything, anyplace, anytime,'' says Wise, the William Gould Dow Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology.

Wise, also director of the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems, is the 2007 Henry Russel Lecturer. He will speak at 4 p.m. March 13 at Rackham Amphitheatre on "WIMS: Sparking Breakthroughs in Health Care and the Global Environment."

Wise and his colleagues are working on numerous Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS) projects that combine sensors, simple electronics and wireless technology. There are multiple ways to use the technology to improve healthcare, the environment, as well as homeland security, he says.

The device to monitor air quality would have multiple uses, including the ability to detect chemical attacks or pollutants. Similar technology is being used to help improve cochlear (ear) implant technology with high-density microsystems that are used to restore hearing to the profoundly deaf.

The researchers also are working on cortical microsystems; electronic interfaces to the nervous system that can help address deafness, blindness, epilepsy, paralysis and Parkinson's disease.

"My whole career has been a series of, `Wow, can you do that?' moments," Wise says, marveling over the many technological leaps he's seen since earning his bachelor's degree in 1963, just four years after patents were issued for the first integrated circuits.

With the possible exception of the printing press, he's hard pressed to think of anything that has had a bigger impact "on the way we live.''

While industry has incredible researchers developing new technologies, an advantage of working at a research university is the ability to team up with experts from a host of different disciplines, each bringing their own unique perspectives, expertise and approaches to the table, he says.

"Industry is less interdisciplinary,'' Wise says. "With so many people in different colleges, you can look over a colleague's shoulder without needing to be an expert in their field, as long as you can hold up your end.''

Wise began his career at the University as assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in 1974, and was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and then to professor in 1982. In 1993, he was appointed the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology.

The Russel Lectureship and Russel Awards were established in 1925 with a bequest from Henry Russel of Detroit, who received three degrees from the University. A senior faculty member is chosen to give the lecture each year, and the awards go to junior faculty with less than six years of tenure for scholarly achievement and promise. Anne Curzan and Jerome Lynch will receive Russel awards at a ceremony following the lecture.

Curzan, recently named an Arthur F. Thurnau associate professor of English Language and Literature, LSA, and associate professor, School of Education, is known nationally for her ability to prepare graduate students for teaching. Lynch, an assistant professor with appointments in civil and environmental engineering, and electrical engineering and computer science, works with wireless technology. He recently worked with networks of wireless sensors that, when embedded in buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure, can self-diagnose cracks or damage without help from humans.

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