Cunningham named Fellow of IEEE and AIMBE

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By Heather Punke, ECE ILLINOIS
February 23, 2012

  • ECE Professor Brian Cunningham was recently named a Fellow of both IEEE and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
  • Cunningham is an expert in biomedical engineering and biomedical imaging.
  • He has been developing ways to use photonic crystals to enhance cancer diagnosis

Brian T. Cunningham
Brian T. Cunningham

ECE Professor Brian T. Cunningham had “a good couple of weeks” earlier this year—he was named a Fellow of IEEE and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

“I was really thrilled to be recognized that way, because they have a pretty rigorous evaluation process that is run by my peers,” Cunningham said of becoming a Fellow of IEEE. In order to be considered for the Fellowship, he had to be nominated by people who are already Fellows of the society. “Some of my colleagues here, professors that were already Fellows, were kind enough to nominate me. In particular, Gary Eden and Rashid Bashir helped with my application,” said Cunningham, who is a researcher in the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab and also a faculty member in Bioengineering.

Cunningham is an expert in biomedical engineering and biomedical imaging, and has been working with sensors since he got his PhD from ECE in 1990.

His most recent work, and the work recognized by IEEE and AIMBE, involves using photonic crystals as biosensors. A biosensor is “something that can detect the presence and the amount of a biological substance, like proteins, cells, virus particles, or bacteria,” Cunningham explained.

He has been developing ways to make the photonic crystals with inexpensive manufacturing approaches, while at the same time providing very high sensitivity for applications that include cancer diagnosis. “For applications like point-of-care medical diagnosis, pharmaceutical research, and environmental monitoring, photonic crystal sensors have to be inexpensive enough to be single use disposable items,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham plans to continue his work on biosensor advancement for some time. He and his research group currently have multiple projects on biosensors in the works. “One involves making a tiny chip that can detect twenty biomarkers for breast cancer in a single drop of blood. We’re developing that as a rapid analysis system that can confirm or refute the results of a positive mammogram and determine if a biopsy is really necessary,” Cunningham explained.

Cunningham received his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD from ECE ILLINOIS in 1986, 1987, and 1990, respectively. After working in industry for 15 years, he returned to ECE as a faculty member. He had nothing but praise for the University and ECE. “I never considered being a faculty member at any school besides Illinois,” he said. “The facilities here are fantastic, the faculty is really great, the students are great, so there’s really no better place than Illinois to come and be a professor.”

In addition to these honors, Cunningham has received the Medical Scholars Program Outstanding Advisor Award in 2010, the Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising in 2010, and an Army Research Fellowship from 1987-1990.

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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