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Dr. Kevin Englehart honoured for groundbreaking work in upper limb prosthetics

Author: Jeremy Elder-Jubelin

Posted on Feb 1, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

Dr. Kevin Englehart

A University of New Brunswick (UNB) researcher has been recognized by the world's largest technical professional organization.

Dr. Kevin Englehart (BScEE ’89, MScEE ’92, PhD ’99), professor of electrical engineering and associate dean of the school of graduate studies, has been made a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as of the beginning of this year. Englehart was made a Fellow in recognition of his “contributions to myoelectric signal processing in rehabilitation engineering,” according to the IEEE’s citation.

Englehart’s work in this area is part of a body of expertise that has led to groundbreaking advances in upper limb prosthetics at UNB and around the world, enabling better control, functionality and quality of life for those who use them.

“Dr. Englehart is an accomplished and highly respected researcher, as well as a generous, engaged member of our UNB community,” said Dr. David MaGee, UNB vice-president (research). “On behalf of all of us, I wish to offer our congratulations on this recognition of his work, and our appreciation for his contributions to scholarship and to university life.”

It is UNB’s research excellence, particularly its Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBME), that enabled him to flourish as a researcher and be recognized in this way, he says. For more than 40 years, IBME has also operated the Atlantic Clinic for Upper Limb Prosthetics, which invents, builds and fits prosthetics for individual users.

“There is probably nowhere else in the world that this work could have been done,” says Englehart. “This is a consequence of the expertise and culture of excellence at IBME, the influence of the clinic, and the truly brilliant engineering students we have. On top of all of this, UNB’s research intensity and moderate size have enabled this niche expertise to be continuously supported, allowing IBME to remain a world leader.”

IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and a significant achievement. The Fellow designation is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest.

Englehart’s work in myoelectric controls builds on the groundbreaking work of Dr. R. N. Scott, who established UNB’s Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBME) in 1965. The IBME was the first research institute in Canada with a mandate to provide novel and practical solutions for people with upper limb loss.

Englehart would build on IBME’s unique expertise in harnessing the electricity produced by the muscles of wearers’ residual limb to control powered prosthetics. His work has focused on improving our ability to decode and apply these signals using machine learning, resulting in better and more dexterous control of hands, wrists and elbows.

Englehart is quick to credit part of his success to the people he works with. Englehart points to a culture of excellence that has been cultivated at the IBME over time; a culture reflected and embodied by the institute’s students, staff and faculty.

This culture has enabled their collective success through collaboration and an understanding of the impact of their work. Englehart’s understanding of this culture originated with his experience as a graduate student at UNB.

“My master’s and PhD supervisor, Dr. Philip Parker, has been an exceptional mentor and lifelong friend,” Englehart says. “In addition to introducing me to the fascinating complexities of the neuromuscular system, he was a powerful example of how important it is to build collegial relationships based upon mutual respect.”

Englehart joins Dr. Rongxing Lu among the UNB scholars recently named IEEE Fellows.