Young Inventor Promoted

Ham to pursue ambitious research as a tenured professor

Donhee Ham, one of Technology Review’s “2008 Young Innovators Under 35,” has been named the Gordon McKay Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics. Ham is best known for his invention of a handheld nuclear magnetic resonance system, which may profoundly affect doctors’ ability to screen patients for ailments ranging from cancer to viruses. The single-silicon-chip device is not only smaller but less expensive than the machines that are being used today for NMR testing. Ham, who has known about the appointment since May, wrote in an e-mailed statement yesterday that his new post will allow him to conduct more adventurous research but will not lessen his commitment to his students. This fall, Ham will teach Engineering Sciences 154: Electronic Devices and Circuits, a course that received a 4.0 of 5.0 rating in the Q Guide. Ham received an instructor rating of 4.7 out of 5.0. “I have taught one undergraduate course every year for the past 7 years,” Ham wrote in his statement. “One undergraduate student, [William F. Andress ’04], who I worked with in my first year, wrote 6 major papers, and he got the Hoopes prize.” In addition to teaching this fall, Ham will also continue to research alongside graduate students, who he said are the “best and brightest.” “I work with extremely talented graduate students with tremendous intellectual virtuosity and high ideals,” he wrote. “I owe my career to them.” Ham’s appointment is the culmination of a global search that lasted for approximately a year, according to J. Gregory Morrisett, associate dean for computer science and engineering. Morissett said that Ham’s work in areas such as circuits and biomedical devices and his extensive knowledge of both electrical engineering and physics helped propel him to the forefront of the candidate pool. “He’s the kind of guy we look for whose knowledge spans disciplines and can create the kind of inventions that the world needs,” Morissett said. —Anita B. Hofschneider can be reached at