Alum honored as MEMS pioneer

October 25, 2019
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Fall 2019

Kurt PetersonKurt PetersonKurt Petersen (B.S.’70 EE) has been awarded the 2019 IEEE Medal of Honor, the organization’s highest award, “for contributions to and leadership in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies in the field of MEMS.” He first made his mark in 1982 as the author of “Silicon as a Mechanical Material,” a review paper that is considered foundational to microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) research. The paper, which described the mechanical properties of integrated circuit materials and envisioned future electro-mechanical applications, aided researchers scattered throughout the MEMS field, ultimately accelerating the development of MEMS technologies.

Petersen also led IBM’s micromachining research group and eventually co-founded six successful companies, including NovaSensor, Cepheid, SiTime and Profusa. The MEMS technologies that he helped develop — including pressure sensors and oscillators, as well as a PCR biodetector that screens all United States mail for anthrax — were key advancements in the commercial application of MEMS.

He currently advises a number of startups and is part of the Band of Angels, Silicon Valley’s oldest angel investment group. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he has published over 100 papers and been granted more than 35 patents.