MSU faculty member awarded $400,000


An assistant MSU professor investigating the implementation of medical diagnostic tools into everyday clothing received a $400,000 award to further his research and academic career.

The National Science Foundation ecognized mechanical engineering assistant professor Peter Lillehoj’s work, granting him the $400,000 CAREER Award.

Lillehoj is researching wearable biosensors that could monitor health and detect illnesses through biomarkers, such as protein counts in sweat. With the award, Lillehoj said he plans to develop current technology and integrate it into clothing at mass production prices.

“(The award) will help me in my research to make this technology more developed and out there in society for people to use,” he said.

With the wearable technology, athletes could measure their performance, the military could monitor soldiers’ health and caretakers could detect infections in elderly patients, Lillehoj said.

Karim Chatti, acting associate dean for research in the College of Engineering, said the award is “quite a jewel” for young faculty, because it is an opportunity for them to establish their academic careers.

“It’s broader than research,” Chatti said. “It allows them to apply the research into teaching and service outreach. They get to do research they believe in and integrate it into courses.”

Lillehoj said increasing trends in commercial mobile and wearable technologies sparked his interest in improving current wearable biosensors, which mainly detect vital signs such as heart rates. Integrating diagnostic and monitoring capacities into the biosensors at a commercially viable cost has yet to be done.

He said lowering the cost of medical diagnostic tools drives his research.

While wearable biosensors might be commercially viable in developed countries within 10 to 15 years, Lillehoj desires to benefit developing countries by lowering the cost of diagnostic tools, wearable or otherwise, through his research, he said.

“I am pretty strong in my faith and religious beliefs,” Lillehoj said. “I want to serve those in need by using my talents and skills in engineering. That’s what motivates me in my research.”

Mechanical engineering associate professor Jongeun Choi, who won a CAREER Award in 2009, said the funds and recognition helped him establish his research and career.

“My NSF CAREER project has been essential in building my career in one of my research thrusts,” Choi said in an email. “My research group has been very productive and successful for this CAREER project. As a result, I was able to build a solid career from these successful outcomes.”

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