Jeff Fessler receives Stephen S. Attwood Award

Prof. Fessler has made lasting contributions to the field of medical imaging, which has led to safer imaging techniques for countless individuals.
Jeff Fessler

Jeff Fessler, the William L. Root Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received the 2022-23 Stephen S. Attwood Award, which is the highest honor awarded to a faculty member by the College of Engineering.

Fessler is a world-renowned expert on computational medical imaging and image reconstruction. He has made lasting contributions in Positron Emission Tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT).  His group also works on signal processing, optimization and machine learning methods.

“His research has had extraordinary impact at U-M and beyond,” said colleague Al Hero, John H. Holland Distinguished University Professor of EECS and R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering.

Six of Fessler’s 13 patents have been licensed to major medical scanner companies, including Samsung and Varian, and both General Electric and Philips medical imaging systems use technology developed by his group.  His method for attenuation-corrected statistical reconstruction for cardiac SPECT scans has been used in U-M’s Nuclear Medicine Division for thousands of patients. Thanks to his image reconstruction techniques, patients receive a much lower dose of radiation.

Fessler and his group freely share much of their fundamental  research with the world. As one of the earliest pioneers in the reproducible research movement, he has made his data and code available to the public since the mid 1990s, influencing others to do the same.

Fessler’s gifts as an educator have been recognized by students and colleagues alike. He has been instrumental in introducing signal processing, image processing and machine learning into the curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Throughout his career, he’s taught 11 different courses, from the freshman level Music Signal Processing to the highly-advanced graduate level course, Advanced Topics in Signal Processing: Image Reconstruction. He has also offered several plenary talks, taught about 20 short courses, and offered innumerable seminars around the world on the topic of medical imaging.

“Through Jeff’s educational outreach efforts, U-M is recognized as one of the very top places to study computational medical imaging,” said Hero.

In the process, Fessler has earned the Biomedical Engineering Teaching Excellence Award (1998), the COE Education Excellence Award (2005), and the Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award (2012) – as well as the Eta Kappa Nu Teacher of the Year (2000, 2016, 2022), which is voted on by the students themselves. He has chaired or co-chaired 62 past dissertation committees.

In addition, Fessler has chaired or served on countless committees both within the department, the College of Engineering, and University, and the wider professional community. He served as Associate Chair of ECE, and was Technical Chair of the inaugural 2002 IEEE International Symposium on Biological Imaging (ISBI), playing a key role in launching what is now the flagship biomedical imaging meeting of the IEEE.

Finally, throughout his career, Fessler has actively recruited and mentored students from traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering, while also supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in other important ways. 

“I wanted to be able to get some teaching experience and give back to the community in terms of educational outreach, and we clicked on those accounts,” said his former PhD student Mai Le. “His encouragement has helped me work through a lot of obstacles, and that was something I felt I needed in an advisor.”

Fessler has received the most prestigious awards in the field, including the 2013 Edward J. Hoffman Medical Imaging Scientist Award and the 2016 IEEE EMBS Technical Achievement Award. 

In addition to his primary appointment in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Fessler is affiliated with the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology, the Applied Physics program, and several institution-wide centers and institutes. He is a Fellow of IEEE.