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Appointment reflects Schulich inventor's passion for improving life through technology

Orly Yadid-Pecht to be inducted to College of Fellows by American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
May 3, 2017
Orly Yadid-Pecht is a professor at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering, and the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures Chair of Integrated Intelligent Sensing

Orly Yadid-Pecht is a professor at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering, and the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures Chair of Integrated Intelligent Sensing

Orly Yadid-Pecht now ranks among the top two per cent of medical and biological engineers in the world — and food-allergy sufferers are the latest to benefit from her research.

As the newly-appointed fellow of the prestigious American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) celebrates a place among the upper echelon of her peers, Yadid-Pecht is busy making strides in the field of biomedical sensors for serious gluten allergies.

“Our aim is to develop a portable compact device that can reliably detect gluten in food, whether the food is cooked or raw, and even fermented,” explains Yadid-Pecht, professor in the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary.

“People who have celiac disease, for instance, need to refrain from food that has over 20 parts per million of gluten, and it is a life sentence for them, as these patients are very suspicious of food in general and it hurts them socially.”

Gluten detection right at the dinner table

Yadid-Pecht knows from personal experience. Two years ago, her daughter was diagnosed as celiac, spurring the inventor’s effort to make gluten detection reliable, right at the dinner table.

“We hope that such a device will serve them well and improve their quality of life immensely,” says Yadid-Pecht.

That quest to improve lives through technology made the professor an AIMBE fellow and acknowledgement as one of the world’s top medical and biological engineers.

Already a decorated academic, Yadid-Pecht is Alberta Innovates Technology Futures Chair of Integrated Intelligent Sensing. She received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellowship in 2007, and a fellowship in 2015 from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

She credits the AIMBE honour to a great team and a great faculty. “I had many students and collaborators that enabled me get to where I am now, and without them we would not have been able to achieve the results and impact we obtained,” she says.

Another project: A camera that acts like a biological eye

As well as studying food allergens, she’s currently working on a camera that acts like a biological eye in being able to discern details in both shadow and light.

“An exciting project we are working on is being able to take a picture with a wide dynamic range, meaning you have details both in dim light and also under very strong light, in the same scene,” she said.

“Inspired by biological vision, we would like to provide a comprehensive image with maximum detail, enabling better detection of objects, for instance face recognition.”

The result will be cameras able to better identify people, including security threats.

It’s the sort of life-improving work that made Yadid-Pecht an AIMBE fellow, a feat managed only twice before in UCalgary history, and lauded by Schulich Dean Bill Rosehart as a well-deserved honour.

“To be included on a roster made up of the best medical and biological engineers in the world is a huge achievement, and she has earned her place though perseverance, creativity and a vision to improve lives through technology,” says Rosehart.

The University of Calgary’s multidisciplinary Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering research strategy is focused on developing solutions for pressing health challenges in disease and injury prevention, diagnosis and treatments. We are also applying systems engineering principles to continuously improve the health system. 

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