Bioelectronics researcher lands Microsoft $100k fellowship

A university lecturer in the emerging field of bioelectronics is the first Australian university-based recipient to receive a $100,000 Microsoft fellowship award.


Dr Alistair McEwan, from the University of Sydney’s School of Electrical and Information Engineering, is an expert in bioelectronics, which is the combination of electrical engineering and biology.


McEwan hopes to accelerate the development of electrical devices used to diagnose heart attacks and strokes.


Earlier this year, eight professors from around the world were selected as grant recipients under the Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship program, including McEwan.


McEwan says the funds will bring forward pre-clinical trials of improved devices able to diagnose heart attacks and strokes sooner and with greater accuracy. He hopes to bring the devices to trial in 2015.


According to McEwan, current devices are limited by movement at the interface between the electrodes and the body.


“This movement introduces error in bio-electronic recording, wasting precious time and limiting use of monitoring devices outside hospitals,” he says.


“A good example of this is movement of defibrillator electrodes during CPR, thought to limit the number of successful resuscitations by up to 50%. Electrical impedance measurements are very sensitive to movement, normally considered a source of noise.”


“My work uses a number of impedance measurements in parallel to adaptively condition multi-electrode array-based sensors. They use this information to improve the biological signal with advanced signal processing techniques such as compressed sensing.”


“More efficient diagnosis, particularly of strokes, improves patients’ likelihood of recovery. The potential patient outcomes of this grant are very exciting.”


The Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship program recognises innovative, promising researchers exploring breakthrough, high-impact research with the potential to solve challenging problems.


A spokesperson for Microsoft Research says the road to tenure can often be quite “bumpy” for professors who are in the early stage of their career.


“Most find their first few years filled with a seemingly endless process of writing grant proposals,” the spokesperson says.


“For the professors selected as Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows each year, this ‘overhead’ is considerably lessened, allowing them to concentrate on the business of pursuing their research with minimal distractions.”


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