Article courtesy of Tennessee Today

A lifetime of innovation in areas related to computing and processing has led to UT’s Doug Birdwell being named as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Birdwell, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science, is the third person from UT to be so honored. Previously named fellows include Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Taylor Eighmy and John Fisher Distinguished Professor Mark Dean.

Birdwell’s research into computing and information systems has spanned from their initial surge in the 1970s through their universal adoption today.

Birdwell said he suspects the award comes for his work on high-performance databases.

“Those resources are for data derived from DNA and their utility in human identification, both using direct search and search via family relationships,” he said.

That work has made him a well-known figure in that community, having published more than 100 papers and led millions of dollars worth of research.

Much that work was coordinated with the help of the UT Research Foundation, which praised Birdwell on the honor and for his career.

“We congratulate Dr. Birdwell, both on his recent election as an NAI fellow and as a productive researcher who has contributed to more than 30 patents over his distinguished career and has an additional six patent applications pending,” said UTRF Vice President Stacey S. Patterson. “His innovative work is currently being used worldwide to assist law enforcement officials in the identification of remains of missing persons and mass disaster victims, an advancement that UTRF has worked with him on to protect and commercialize these important discoveries that have revolutionized the scalability and use of DNA evidence for human identification.”

Along with UTRF’s efforts, Birdwell has also managed to stay at the forefront of research by keeping in touch with emerging technologies, including work on artificial intelligence and responsive systems.

“We have been developing novel computational structures for the past six years or so called neuromorphic computing,” said Birdwell. “This has been a team effort, though. Now that I am retired, I am not as active in the group, but the others will carry on.”

Birdwell noted that the team included Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty members Katie Schuman, Mark Dean, Jim Plank, Garrett Rose, Roger Horn, Donatello Materassi and graduate student Meg Drouhard.

The work of Birdwell and the other members of this year’s class of fellows represent more than 5,300 U.S. patents. Once inducted, the list of NAI Fellows will number 582 people, including 27 Nobel Laureates.

In addition to this latest honor, Birdwell is also an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow, and a member of several honors societies.