Professor Yifan Chen receives Engineering New Zealand Fellows Award

30 March 2020

University of Waikato Professor Dr Yifan Chen has been awarded a prestigious Engineering New Zealand Fellows Award.

Dr Yifan Chen is an internationally recognised academic leader, with a demonstrated history of working in renowned universities in China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the United States.

He pioneered the emerging field of computational nanobiosensing, which involves smart tumour targeting using nanorobots. These nanorobots perform ‘agile’ searches for tumours by learning from the biological environment. He has also made a significant contribution to the technological, clinical and commercialisation advancement in the area of microwave medical imaging and sensing.

This award recognises highly experienced professionals who have made a huge impact on engineering in New Zealand, and have inspired others within the profession.

“It is a great honour to receive this award, and have my contributions recognised by the leading engineering body in New Zealand,” says Professor Chen.

Professor Chen was the founding Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Southern University of Science and Technology in China, which is considered one of the best young universities in the world. He built the department from scratch to 160 professional staff, and led the development of joint PhD programmes with top-tier universities around the world.

“Since joining the University of Waikato in 2017, in my role as Associate Dean External Engagement for the Health, Engineering, Computing and Science Division, I have fostered external linkages with top universities and institutes, particularly in China,” says Professor Chen.

He has developed a wide range of electromagnetic medical examination technologies for low-cost healthcare, including microwave breast imaging, microwave stroke detection, and microwave cognitive impairment detection in collaboration with medical instrument companies and universities in the UK and China.

In particular, Professor Chen worked with ET Medical in Shenzhen, China to develop Asia’s first clinically relevant, commercial microwave radar breast scanners. These are currently being trialled in China, with the trial being the first of its kind focusing on Asian women who usually have denser breasts than European women, making it harder to detect tumours.

Professor Chen has also been elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (FIET) due to his innovation in the area of wireless technologies in medical diagnostics, therapy and information transmission. He is one of the youngest engineers to achieve this, as less than 50 engineers have achieved this status before the age of 40.

He is also well-published, and has over 250 publications in the areas ofcomputational nanobiosensing, molecular communications for nanobiomedicine, and electromagnetic medical imaging and sensing.

Professor Chen is engaged in several ongoing research projects, including one funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for $6m, looking at developing hand-held high-resolution medical imaging in conjunction with Lincoln Agritech, the University of Auckland and the Université Nice Sophia Antipolis.

“As well as that project, I’m also looking into a portable low-cost microwave brain scanner for stroke detection and recovery monitoring, and I am writing a book on ‘Computational Nanobiosensing’ for Cambridge University Press, which would be the first book on this emerging area in the market,” says Professor Chen.

Professor Chen was due to receive his award at a special Engineering New Zealand dinner at the end of March, however this has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A new date will be provided later this year.

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