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How We Celebrate Engineers

The Institute focuses on fascinating people and the technology they create

2 min read
A collage of 5 people on a blue background.

IEEE members recently featured in The Institute [clockwise from top left]: Arti Agrawal, Ramneek Kalra, Jack Dongarra, Sandra Johnson, and Michael Kagan.


The Institute has appeared, off and on, in the pages of IEEESpectrum since debuting as a four-page insert in the December 1976 issue. At various times during the ensuing decades, The Institute—or, as we call it in Spectrum’s offices, “TI”—has been published as a stand-alone monthly and then quarterly broadsheet. It even had its own website for a few years, before being integrated into Spectrum’s site in 2019 and appearing in the print magazine as a section on a quarterly basis.

While Spectrum dives deep into emerging technologies and delivers expert voices from the bleeding edge, The Institute has focused on IEEE members, featuring their stories, celebrating their accomplishments, and telling them about IEEE products, services, elections, and volunteer opportunities. The Institute also brings members all the news relevant to the functioning of the association, such as the reconfiguration of its geographic regions to ensure there is equitable representation across its global membership.

The Institute staff—Editor in Chief Kathy Pretz and Assistant Editor Joanna Goodrich—say they are most excited about showcasing the diversity of IEEE’s membership and highlighting those who have made IEEE their professional home. Pretz says there’s a misconception that most of IEEE’s members work in academia. That’s why The Institute has put more emphasis on profiling the careers of those working in industry, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s senior vice president of R&D, Yuh-Jier Mii.

“I’m always amazed how accessible top leaders at high-tech companies are when I tell them I would like to interview them for an article in IEEE’s member publication,” Pretz remarked recently. “And all of them are so humble about their accomplishments. TSMC’s Yuh-Jier Mii was no different.”

Pretz and Goodrich also write about the careers of young professionals who are the future of the organization. In this month’s issue, they spotlight Eddie Custovic, the recipient of the IEEE Theodore W. Hissey Outstanding Young Professionals Award.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to interview members who have developed technology that I use every day.”

In addition to putting a spotlight on the accomplishments of individual engineers, The Institute also covers the history of technology. “It’s very rewarding to be able to interview members who have developed technology that I use every day, as well as members who are developing the next breakthrough tech that will impact society,” Goodrich says. “For example, Steven Sasson invented the first digital camera, which we use every day in some shape or form. Eddie Custovic, on the other hand, is working to develop an AI platform that will help solve food shortages that have been predicted for 2050.”

Indeed, IEEE members have for decades been turning their ideas into successful businesses. That’s why TI features entrepreneurial members who have launched their own ventures, like IEEE Fellow Alex Bronstein of Embryonics. And, of course, TI celebrates major anniversaries and milestones, like the 25th anniversary of IEEE Women in Engineering.

In future issues, readers can look forward to a profile of computer pioneer IEEE Fellow Erol Gelenbe, whose invention of the packet-voice telephone switch made Zoom possible. In December, look for a piece on IEEE executive director Stephen Welby, who is leaving the organization at the end of the year. Kathy, Joanna, and I invite you to celebrate these engineers and their extraordinary accomplishments with us in the coming months.

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Illustration showing an astronaut performing mechanical repairs to a satellite uses two extra mechanical arms that project from a backpack.

Extra limbs, controlled by wearable electrode patches that read and interpret neural signals from the user, could have innumerable uses, such as assisting on spacewalk missions to repair satellites.

Chris Philpot

What could you do with an extra limb? Consider a surgeon performing a delicate operation, one that needs her expertise and steady hands—all three of them. As her two biological hands manipulate surgical instruments, a third robotic limb that’s attached to her torso plays a supporting role. Or picture a construction worker who is thankful for his extra robotic hand as it braces the heavy beam he’s fastening into place with his other two hands. Imagine wearing an exoskeleton that would let you handle multiple objects simultaneously, like Spiderman’s Dr. Octopus. Or contemplate the out-there music a composer could write for a pianist who has 12 fingers to spread across the keyboard.

Such scenarios may seem like science fiction, but recent progress in robotics and neuroscience makes extra robotic limbs conceivable with today’s technology. Our research groups at Imperial College London and the University of Freiburg, in Germany, together with partners in the European project NIMA, are now working to figure out whether such augmentation can be realized in practice to extend human abilities. The main questions we’re tackling involve both neuroscience and neurotechnology: Is the human brain capable of controlling additional body parts as effectively as it controls biological parts? And if so, what neural signals can be used for this control?

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