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Boppart and Choquette invested as Bliss Professors

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By Heather Punke, ECE ILLINOIS
December 15, 2011

  • ECE Professors Stephen Boppart and Kent Choquette were among six College of Engineering faculty invested as Abel Bliss Professors of Engineering.
  • Boppart's research investigates the intersection of engineering, physical sciences, and medicine.
  • Choquette is a renowned researcher of vertical cavity surface emitting lasers.

Stephen Allen Boppart
Stephen Allen Boppart

On November 11, ECE Professors Stephen Allen Boppart and Kent D. Choquette were among six College of Engineering faculty invested as Abel Bliss Professors of Engineering. Other College of Engineering faculty invested were Philippe H. Geubelle (Aerospace Engineering), Jaiwei Han (Computer Science) David Ruzic, (Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering), and Albert J. Valocchi (Civil and Environmental Engineering).

Kent D. Choquette
Kent D. Choquette

In his opening remarks, College of Engineering Dean Ilesanmi Adesida joked, “It is cold outside, but as we all know, it is ‘blissful’ in here today.” He also added kind words about all of the professors soon to be invested. “We are extremely proud of our colleagues on stage here. They are persons of integrity, outstanding brilliance, [and] unquestioned dedication and leadership.”

ECE Department head Andreas C. Cangellaris introduced Boppart. He highlighted accomplishments Boppart has made throughout his career as a professor and researcher. “As a faculty member in the ECE Department, the Bioengineering Department, and the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve epitomizes what the groundbreaking intersection of engineering, the physical sciences, and medicine is all about,” Cangellaris said.

In his remarks Boppart expressed his gratitude to his family, colleagues, and students for their help and support throughout his career: “[I would like to thank] my many students, past and present […] who have always given me a sense of perpetual enthusiasm, youthful discovery, and have always been a source for ideas and innovation.”

Boppart, a researcher in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, has a PhD in Medical and Electrical Engineering from MIT (1998) and an MD from Harvard (2000) and has made many contributions to the fields of engineering, medicine, and biology. He works with imaging techniques and light to generate high-resolution, real-time, non-invasive images of biological tissue at the cellular and molecular level for diagnosing diseases such as cancer, according to the Beckman Institute website. Boppart is a Fellow of IEEE, SPIE, and the Optical Society of America, among other awards.

Choquette was introduced by ECE Professor James J. Coleman, who spoke of Choquette’s passion for life and his research. “Kent’s work, and really everything in Kent’s life, is defined by his passion,” said Coleman. “When he went to Bell Labs after completing his PhD, he developed a lifelong passion for VCSELs [vertical cavity surface emitting lasers].”

In his remarks, Choquette, a researcher in the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab, thanked the audience and he highlighted how helpful and encouraging his colleagues and his students have been. “The quality of your research is reflected in the quality of your graduate students. I’ve had the great benefit and privilege to work with some outstanding students in the past and the present,” Choquette said.

Choquette joined the University of Illinois in 2000, after earning his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and working in the industry at AT&T Bell Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory for 10 years. He has made major contributions to developing VCSEL devices, which now appear in numerous commercial products. Choquette was named an ECE Sony Faculty Scholar from 2004-2007, and is a Fellow of IEEE, the Optical Society of America, and SPIE.

The Bliss Professorships are the result of a bequest from the late Helen Eva Bliss in memory of her father, Abel Bliss Jr. Miss Bliss graduated from the University of Illinois in 1911 with a degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Early in her career, she taught engineering at a Shreveport, Louisiana, high school, and later did clerical work with the Bureau of Aircraft Production in Washington, DC. From 1936 until her retirement in 1962, she worked for the Washington law firm of Ivins, Phillips & Barker as an executive secretary.

Her father, Abel Bliss Jr., entered the University in 1872 to study civil engineering, but left the University before completing his degree. In June 1874, the University granted him a partial certificate in civil engineering. His business ventures included agriculture and real estate, and by 1929, he was a partner in the land development and oil production company of Bliss & Wetherbee. Mr. Bliss died in the mid-1930s.

The generous Bliss bequest, established by Helen Eva Bliss in memory of Abel Bliss Jr., is used to advance scholarly activities in the College of Engineering.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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