New research chair uses her expertise to help others

May 12, 2005, vol. 33, no. 2
By Diane Luckow

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Electrical engineering doesn't come to mind as a helping profession but for engineering science professor Bozena Kaminska, that's what it is.

As SFU's new Canada Research Chair in wireless sensor networks, she wants to use her engineering expertise to do something meaningful that will have an impact and create a difference in people's lives.

That's why she's interested in researching and developing biomedical sensors that can track physiological activity in the ill and aged.

For example, she envisions wireless sensors about the size of a grain of rice that can be used to monitor physiological or daily activities that could include things like oxygen levels, glucose levels, movements or positioning.

Networks of miniature wireless sensors have many applications, she notes, including health and medical monitoring, wildlife tracking, even industrial environments.

For example, sensors could measure health indicators such as heart rate and blood pressure in the elderly or sick, or those in non-hospital locations, and send this information by radio to computers and health care providers for analysis.

The response could be a recorded verbal reminder to take medication or the dispatch of an ambulance.

Kaminska would also like to develop a biomedical engineering research centre at SFU. “There is currently no strong group in Canada in this area,” she notes.

“The strength here at SFU is in microsensors, which is an important part of biomedical engineering. But there's also a need for interdisciplinary research that can meld technology and applications with the social and deployment aspects.”

Kaminska, a petite powerhouse, is a pioneer and leader in mixed signal design and test automation. She holds more than 10 research patents and has started several successful companies in the U.S. and Canada to develop and manufacture wireless sensors that can be used for sensing temperature and motion, or for tracking things such as airport equipment and animals.

The sensors are so tiny they can even be implanted in salmon.

Kaminska joined SFU's school of engineering science in September. She remains chair of Pultronics Inc. in Montreal, and is also involved in a California-based start-up that specializes in biomedical sensors.

Kaminska says she's glad to be back in academia. In the late 1970s she spent five years teaching engineering science in Algeria, then taught for 12 years at l'Ecole Polytechnique at L'Université de Montréal. After 10 years in industry, she says, she missed the challenges of research and also missed the students.

“Becoming a Canada Research Chair is a very nice opportunity,” she says.

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