Professor Kim Boyer has joined the faculty as head of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering.
A renowned computer vision expert with research interests ranging from advanced heart imaging and human eye modeling to eye-in-the-sky satellites, Boyer intends to grow the size and stature of the department while boosting Rensselaer’s reputation as a leader in computer and machine vision.
“Professor Boyer brings to the table a robust research program, 30 years of experience in academia and the private sector, and the deep respect of his fellow engineers from around the world,” said Alan Cramb, dean of Rensselaer’s School of Engineering. “I welcome Kim to Rensselaer, and look forward to more exciting developments from his lab and the entire ESCE department.”
Boyer describes the academic field of computer vision as the pursuit of making machines that can look at nearly any image from X-rays to digital photos or satellite images and distinguish and recognize particular shapes, then organize the data coherently. Though computer vision is not an entirely new field, the discipline’s potential and impact continue to grow in tandem with the processing power of computers and supercomputers, as well as with the development of robust mathematical theories of vision and image analysis.
Much of Boyer’s current research concerns better methods to view, understand, and interpret the human body. One of his projects involves creating a medical imaging application to scan the human heart in order to detect ventricular dyssynchrony, an elusive cardiac condition that is extremely difficult to diagnose. The next step of the project will entail expanding the application so it can determine through image analysis if particular cases of ventricular dyssynchrony are treatable or inoperable, Boyer says.
Another of Boyer’s research projects is looking at how tears form and run off or evaporate from the human eye. There is very little known about the subject, he says, and building an accurate fluid dynamics model of tears should allow the creation of better treatments and more effective products for individuals suffering from dry, itchy eyes.
Boyer is also currently working on a book about his research for NASA, which developed sophisticated computer vision techniques to analyze satellite images in order to track urban and suburban sprawl, as well as the loss of farmland and wildlife habitat.
The multidisciplinary nature of computer vision, as well as the sheer difficulty of the subject, is what first drew Boyer to the subject and what continues to pique his scientific curiosity.
“Making a machine that can see, in the same way that we can see, is probably one of the most difficult undertakings humans have ever attempted,” he says. “I think it’s fascinating. You can solve a lot of interesting problems that have a tremendous effect on peoples’ lives, particularly in the medical arena.”
Boyer joins Rensselaer from The Ohio State University, where he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and director of the school’s Signal Analysis and Machine Perception Laboratory. Boyer earned his master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Purdue University. He worked for nearly a decade as a researcher for Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., and COMSAT Laboratories in Clarksburg, Md., before joining the Ohio State faculty in 1986.
A prolific author, Boyer has written two books, edited three other books, and published more than 200 papers and conference presentations. He also currently sits on the editorial boards of the journals Computer Vision and Image Understanding and Machine Vision and Applications. He is a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as well as the International Association for Pattern Recognition.
In August 2006, Boyer accepted a one-year appointment as a National Academies Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State. As one of six senior scientists charged with linking cutting-edge science and technology to the State Department’s diplomacy initiatives, Boyer advised on topics ranging from biofuels to coupling innovation with economic development in Latin America.
Boyer traveled extensively over the year, and said he was impressed with the prowess of students and researchers in South and Latin America. As a result, he intends to reach out to underrepresented and overlooked countries in the region as well as in Eastern Europe to help attract new students from untapped talent pools to Rensselaer.
“With an eye to building long-term relationships, improving our visibility, and enhancing our presence in these parts of the world, we should certainly make an effort to draw talented students from these areas to Rensselaer and the School of Engineering,” he says.
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