Bringing High-Tech Advances to Health Care

By Grant Martin

Yehia MassoudYehia Massoud says technology
originally designed for defense
could have huge impacts on the
future of health care.

Developing smart and efficient systems to tackle high-impact problems, especially in the areas of medicine and health care, is the vision of the new chair of electrical and computer engineering at UAB. Yehia Massoud, Ph.D., says advances in electrical engineering will lead to a variety of novel, practical health-care applications. “Many devices that have been developed for other uses could be applied to medicine and health care,” Massoud says. And because of the close relationship between the School of Engineering and UAB’s academic medical center, “we are in a unique position here to focus specifically on those types of issues.”

Massoud is initiating several research collaborations to develop novel solutions for health-care problems to benefit society, including partnerships with departments in the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine, as well as the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Prior to coming to UAB, Massoud was on the faculty at Rice University, where his research team worked on a $4-million project for the Department of Defense, developing a system that could convert analog signals to digital signals at a much lower sampling rate than conventional digitizing systems.

magf11-phoneThe result is a device that is smaller and much more power efficient than previous models. And though the project was funded by the defense department, Massoud says the potential for medicine is obvious. “Imagine the benefit to medical implants that have the ability to process much more information and have 10 times the battery life,” he explains. “A device that may have lasted for four years would be able to stay in the body for 40 years.”

Massoud says undergraduate students will take a leading role in research. For example, electrical engineering students are already at work designing smartphone-based software applications. “In the near future, the mobile phone will be the only computer many people will need,” Massoud says. “Undergraduates are already familiar with the instruments, so it is a perfect way to focus electrical engineering training into practical applications that are more relevant than ever to everyday life.”