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IEEE Medal of Honor Goes to Kurt Petersen

The Life Fellow is a pioneer in advancing microelectromechanical systems technology

2 min read

Photo of IEEE Life Fellow Kurt Petersen
Photo: Kurt Petersen

THE INSTITUTEIEEE Life Fellow Kurt Petersen will receive this year’s IEEE Medal of Honor “for contributions to and leadership in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies in the field of MEMS.”

Petersen began his career at IBM, where he established a micromachining research group, which ran from 1975 to 1982. Micromachining is a technique for the fabrication of 3D and 2D electromechanical structures on the micrometer scale in silicon.

He left IBM to help found several companies that work to advance microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology.

NovaSensor, launched in 1985, was the first to commercialize widely used MEMS processing technologies such as silicon fusion bonding and deep reactive ion etching. The company now is known as Amphenol.

Founded in 1996, Cepheid transformed the field of molecular diagnostics using microfluidics and the polymerase chain reaction.

SiTime, launched in 2004, sells MEMS electronic oscillators, which replaced quartz crystal oscillators.

Since the launch of Profusa in 2008, it has become a leading developer of biointegrated sensors. It is developing a small, injectable, in vivo chemical sensor. The plastic sensor is read fluorescently through an optical bandage, and the technology is designed to determine the quantity of multiple chemicals simultaneously.

More than 100 of Petersen’s articles have been published. He has been granted more than 35 patents in the MEMS field.

He was awarded the 2001 IEEE Simon Ramo Medal for contributions to MEMS “science and technology and their integration into systems applications.”

Petersen is a member of the Silicon Valley Band of Angels, an organization that supports startups. He mentors, consults with, and invests in early-stage, high-tech companies.

The IEEE Foundation sponsors the Medal of Honor. The award is scheduled to be presented at the annual Honors Ceremony during the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit, to be held on 17 May at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

This article appears in the March 2019 print issue as “IEEE Medal of Honor Goes to Life Fellow Petersen.”

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