The end of 2020 brought a pleasant surprise to Dr. Yasemin M. Akay, an instructional associate professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the Cullen College of Engineering, as she was notified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers that she was promoted to Senior Member status.
“I was very surprised, and indeed shocked, since I did not know about my nomination,” she said. “I received a congratulatory letter from the IEEE President, Dr. Toshio Fukuda. I was humbled and honored with his letter.”
Afterward, she learned that several of her colleagues, which included Dr. Andrew Laine of Columbia, Dr. May Wang of Georgia Tech, Dr. Paolo Bonato of Harvard, Dr. Bruce Wheeler of the University of California San Diego, and Dr. Jose Pons of Northwestern, unanimously nominated her for the distinction.
“The appreciation of my distinguished colleagues for my scientific and educational contributions was highly rewarding and emotional,” she said. “Being elevated to the rank of IEEE Senior Membership position, which only 10 percent of IEEE members hold, is a great honor, since IEEE has 420,000 members and it is the largest scientific organization in the world."
Akay has been an active member of the organization for more than three decades.
“I attended the annual meeting of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology in 1991 for the first time, when my graduate advisor received the carrier achievement award,” she said. “At the banquet, he invited me to his table and reminded that I was the only female engineer at the table. I met several scientists, and it was an eye-opening event, where I was highly encouraged to continue my research.”
“I’ve attended many conferences since and met many exceptional people, and it has been amazing opportunity to let others know what I do and learn what they do, discuss, and explore new opportunities in the field,” she said.
Akay gives keynote lectures for several conferences, and she was the first female keynote speaker in CISP BMEI at the 2019 Conference in Beijing, China. She also serves as an associate editor for one of the flagship journals of the IEEE, as well as an associate editor for the IEEE Conference on Neural Engineering 2021. She noted that those positions, as well as the regular conferences, allow her to network with her fellow researchers and to stay current with developments in various fields.
As the calendar turns to 2021, Akay identified several goals for her research, which is done in the department’s Akay Neural Engineering and Informatics Laboratory.
“I am keen to investigate the underlying mechanisms of addiction and Glioblastoma Multiforme [GBM] at molecular and cellular levels with my students, postdocs and collaborators,” she said. “I am also looking forward to teaching my global healthcare course in the summer. I am highly involved with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion activities of IEEE, and the IEEE EMBS student conferences organized and run by students.”