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Engineering Professors Honored as Two of the World's Top Young Innovators

Zheng Wang and Nanshu Lu, assistant professors at The University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering, have each been named to MIT Technology Review's list of the world's top 35 innovators under the age of 35 (TR35) for their health-related discoveries.

A panel of experts and Technology Review editorial staffers chose Lu and Wang from a pool of 250 nominees for the global list, which highlights young innovators who are changing the world. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was a winner in 2007.

Lu, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, has been recognized for creating soft, stretchable electronics — called electronic tattoos — that can be used to track vital signs including brain activity, heart rate and muscle activity.

"Nanshu's work could have a major impact on medical procedures," said Philip Varghese, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. "She combines expertise in theoretical mechanics with strong experimental skills, and applies her knowledge to a variety of challenging problems, including biointegrated electronics."

She has developed thin silicone patches that can support stretchable electronic circuits. The long-lasting patches easily bond to skin and even organs. She hopes the patches will be used someday to automatically treat medical problems.

"The long-term integration of electronics with organisms will open a new era for health monitoring," Lu said.

Wang's research allows sensors and smart electronics to be blended into common textiles, creating nanomaterials that can be used for a variety of purposes, said Ahmed Tewfik, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

"Zheng's pioneering work on piezoelectric fiber materials can revolutionize the wearable medical devices market," Tewfik said. "His discoveries are unquestionably some of the most significant inventions in nanophotonics over the past decade."

Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been recognized for his discoveries in nanotechnology and materials that could someday be used to create wearable medical devices.

Wang, who joined the faculty this year, works on nanodevices and nanomaterials with light and sound. He has created nanometer-size ridges on a chip that allow for more efficient energy conversion and enhanced information processing.

"I am excited about the opportunities of applying these technologies to solve problems in everyday life," he said.

Lu, Wang and the other TR35 winners will be featured in the September/October issue of Technology Review and online. An awards ceremony will be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in October.

TR35 recognizes the world's top innovators from academia and business who are working on forward-thinking technologies in emerging fields such as biotechnology, computer and electronics hardware and software, energy and nanotechnology.