Professorship: Donald Biggar Willett Professor
in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Donald Biggar Willett (1897-1981) attended Illinois from 1916 to 1922, but left the university just a few hours short of earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. During the 1930s, Willett moved to Los Angeles and opened a tax accounting business. He died in 1981 at age 83. His wife, Elizabeth Marie Henning Willett, was an avid investor who accumulated a fortune. She knew that her husband admired the U of I College of Engineering for its thriftiness and honesty, so in her will she left a gift to the college for research in memory of her husband. Mrs. Willett died in 1993 at age 91. The purpose of the Willett Professorships is to increase the distinction of the College and its departments by recognizing and stimulating intellectual leadership and outstanding research.

Faculty: Jennifer Bernhard

ECE Professor Jennifer Bernhard

Prof. Bernhard's research addresses applications-oriented electromagnetic problems with an emphasis on theoretical analysis and experimental investigation. Her research group focuses on two areas: Electromagnetics for Wireless Communication and Reconfigurable Active and Passive Antennas.

Electromagnetics for Wireless Communication: This work centers on cutting-edge technology development and design techniques that will enable high data-rate wireless communication and wireless parallel computation. Prof. Bernhard's research group investigates the effects of packaging on antenna performance and uses these results to develop design-oriented models for internal antennas, embedded antennas, and diversity schemes. The research also creates synthesis approaches for internal portable antenna systems, including IoT, that produce desired performance while reducing user exposure and battery usage.

Reconfigurable Active and Passive Antennas: Prof. Bernhard's research implements reconfigurability in antenna structures to provide flexibility in operating frequency, bandwidth, and radiation pattern performance. Reconfigurability is accomplished using MEMS (microelectromechanical system) or traditional microwave switches, ferroelectric materials, or mechanical actuation of antenna components. The new multi-function antennas developed in this research will reduce dramatically the number and size of large array-based antenna systems, improve system efficiency, and decrease system cost and weight.

The research group is supported by a specialized fabrication facility, a new anechoic chamber (the Illinois Wireless Wind Tunnel), Agilent vector network analyzers, and opportunities for collaborations with the UIUC Center for Computational Electromagnetics.