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2011 Distinguished University Innovator Award

Professors Khalil Najafi (far left) and Kensall Wise were named the University of Michigan Distinguished University Innovators for 2011, a prize that recognizes faculty for the development of innovative technologies and the demonstration of their transformational potential. The pair were 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.

Khalil Najafi is 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, and is chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Ken 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 the College of Engineering.

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.”