2009 Distinguished Alumnus: Matthew O’Donnell (Physics 1976)

Author: Mary Hendriksen

Matthew O’Donnell

Gregory E. Sterling, Dean of the Graduate School, has announced the winner of the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Award: Matthew O’Donnell.

Now the Frank and Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering at the University of Washington, O’Donnell is a biomedical engineer who is renowned for his interdisciplinary focus. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Notre Dame in 1972, and his doctoral degree, also in physics, from Notre Dame in 1976.

After leaving Notre Dame, O’Donnell began his career as a postdoctoral fellow and senior research associate in physics and medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. He went on to a research fellowship in electrical engineering at Yale University, and then to a decade of private-sector experience as a research and development physicist at the General Electric Company in New York. Returning to the academy in 1990, O’Donnell joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science. He later chaired that university’s biomedical engineering department from 1998 to 2006. At Michigan, O’Donnell was recognized with two teaching awards.

In 2006, O’Donnell became dean of engineering at the University of Washington, well known for its interdisciplinary focus. In addition to a heavy load of administrative duties, he continues his own research program. An expert in ultrasound imaging, his research uses high-frequency energy pulses to perform non-invasive medical imaging. His specific research interests include ultrafast optics, in-vivo microscopy, catheter imaging of coronary arteries, optoacoustic arrays, and elasticity and molecular imaging.

O’Donnell is currently the principal investigator on four National Institutes of Health grants dealing with applications of ultrasound imaging and the co-principal investigator on five more. He has graduated 25 Ph.D. students and mentored 15 post-doctoral fellows. He holds 55 patents and has authored or co-authored more than 300 publications. In addition, he is associate editor of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging, a fellow of both the technology professional organization IEEE and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a member of the American Physical Society. O’Donnell was elected this past February to the National Academy of Engineering—one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award will be presented to O’Donnell at the Graduate School Awards Dinner on May 15. He will be recognized at the Graduate School Commencement on May 16, 10:00 a.m., at the Joyce Center.

Previous winners of the Distinguished Alumnus Award include sociologist Saskia Sassen and writer Michael Collins.

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