Staying the course by putting people first
People and ideas drive Lee Potter in his career as an Ohio State associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
“If we stay focused on people and what’s in their interest, then it keeps us on track as faculty,” says Potter. “In my case, that would be the graduate students, postdocs or research scientists that I work with. What do they enjoy doing? What will be good academic training for them? What will be good career development for them?”
Keeping his students’ interests in mind helped lead Potter to what would become an award-winning interdisciplinary research project.
“I wanted to broaden the portfolio of my own research program with my students, as well as the students’ future employment opportunities, and I had some interest in reaching out to the medical college,” Potter says. “I thought a sabbatical leave presented an opportunity where I could pursue that.”
During the 2006 sabbatical, Potter met with Professor Jay Zweier in Ohio State’s College of Medicine to discuss research collaboration opportunities. Zweier introduced him to a research group who needed the expertise of Potter’s team in signal and image processing to move forward with their medical research. This led to the formation of an interdisciplinary research team consisting of Zweier, professor of cardiovascular medicine, physiology and cell biology, molecular and cellular biochemistry and radiology; Periannan Kuppusamy, a chemist and professor of cardiovascular medicine; and two electrical and computer engineers, Rizwan Ahmad and Potter.
The team was recently awarded a 2011 Lumley Interdisciplinary Research Award from the College of Engineering for work to accelerate electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging. A cousin to the clinically available MRI, the EPR imaging technique extends the set of tools that physicians have for measuring oxygen noninvasively and could have clinical applications in wound healing and monitoring the treatment of tumors in cancer therapy.
“My role was the signal processing. How do we best acquire the measured signals and process them to derive the desired information?” explains Potter.
Using numerous tricks from radio frequency receiver design to the signal processing of the EPR imaging data, the team has accelerated the data acquisition time of EPR by as much as a factor of 60, turning what previously took hours into minutes.
The team’s research resulted in intellectual property and licensing revenue for the university and spawned a new company, O2 Insights. O2 Insights was created by a team of Fisher College of Business graduates who won a national business plan competition using market feasibility studies they conducted for this oxygen measurement system. The company is in the process of raising venture capital.
Potter also leads a team of engineers, scientists and mathematicians from five universities on a $2.53 million U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant-funded project that seeks to develop and demonstrate foundational principles for adaptively managing the collection of data. Potter’s team focuses on adapting how they transmit and receive radar information as it’s being collected in order to be more efficient.
“The central question this research seeks to answer is how to collect only data that is informative for the desired task,” explains Potter. “In this context, the very concept of information depends on prior knowledge and the question to be answered.”
Outside of teaching and research, Potter enjoys running and playing tennis, but his focus remains on a very special group of people — his family.
“I’m a parent of a child with special needs,” he says, “so that’s pretty much my hobby and passion.”
image caption: Lee Potter shows a computer hardware system that runs software his team created to accelerate EPR data acquisition time by as much as a factor of 60. The engineers used innovations in radio frequency receiver design and signal processing for the project. They leveraged modern digital communications such as cellphones or satellite links to develop a new design of the L-band spectrometer.
Reprinted from Ohio State News in Engineering