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Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Patrick Chiang says that coming to Oregon, and specifically OSU has made possible an opportunity to bring together his two interests: energy efficient electronics and improving human health.
Although he had an early interest in biology in high school, and was initially a pre-med student in college, Chiang pursued his interest in micro electronics and received his electrical engineering and computer science degree from University of California, Berkley, and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
It was during graduate school that he began to question the purpose of his work. “Growing up in the Bay Area, I was immersed in an environment where people were focused on the next mass consumer electronics device, such as the iPhone or Xbox. I was following that path in graduate school until some of my family members started experiencing health issues. Over time, I realized I could leverage my expertise in low-power electronics to benefit the medical field,” Chiang says.
In his research, he endeavors to find ways to improve the energy efficiency of electronics with the ultimate goal of applying these concepts to new technologies that can continuously monitor the health of individuals. The widespread use of medical monitoring devices, he explains, is dependent on having good reliability while consuming low power in order to extend battery life.
“OSU is very strong in health and human services areas. So, I’ve been able to link my dual interests together and things have really started to click for me,” he says.
Collaborators on projects to develop non-invasive wireless monitoring devices include colleagues at OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research, the Linus Pauling Institute, and OHSU’s Oregon Center on Aging and Technology. The devices he and his students are developing can gather data such as heart rate, respiration and activity level to help observe changes due to aging as well as test the effects of various interventions such as vitamins, exercise, and pharmaceuticals.
Patrick Chiang works with students Sean Connell and Samuel House on tracking of elderly patients.
The type of continuous monitoring that is possible with such devices is a powerful research tool because the data is continuously captured. Chiang explains, “Some drugs have harmful effects on heart rate, for example, but you would not be able to detect it with conventional lab tests that are performed only once a month.”
Chiang has also fostered international collaborations. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at Tsinghua University in China, and has since developed other collaborations in China. Having grown up Chinese-American, he says, has likely influenced his understanding of the Chinese culture and helped to facilitate his joint work there, although he admits his Chinese is “pretty bad,” and is something he hopes to improve in his spare time.
He believes the experience of working internationally is extremely valuable for students, especially as the nature of technology becomes more global. “Consider for example, Intel Corporation, which integrate design teams from Israel to China to Malaysia. I want our OSU graduates to not only understand how to innovate on their own local project, but learn to lead engineering teams that are working in several other time-zones concurrently.”
With his help, one of his students, Jacob Postman, received an NSF summer research fellowship to China, and he plans that more of his students will take advantage of the opportunity to broaden their educational experience.
In addition to solidifying his research direction, coming to Oregon has inspired another new endeavor — fly-fishing.
“That was one thing I wanted to pick up coming from California to Oregon. I definitely wanted to learn fly-fishing because you hear so much about it. So far I have not been too successful, catching a single 5-inch rainbow trout, but it’s a great way to get outside!”
—By Rachel Robertson