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Award-winning Lassonde professor developing in-home devices for disease prevention and detection

Peter (Yong) Lian, professor in the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, is taking the field of biomedical circuits and systems by storm, receiving multiple esteemed recognitions along the way.

His research focuses on wearable and implantable biomedical circuits used for applications ranging from seizure detection to heart monitoring. Combining his multidisciplinary expertise in business, biomedicine and electrical engineering, he aims to provide accessible solutions for early detection and prevention of various health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. In addition, his work may facilitate better homecare for outpatients and reduce their need for frequent hospital visits.

Not only has Professor Lian helped advance the field of biomedical circuits and systems, but he is also one of the pioneering researchers who founded and established this evolving discipline.

His years of technical excellence, global impact, research contributions and unparalleled leadership recently led him to receive the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Circuits and Systems Society Mac Van Valkenburg Award, which is the most prestigious achievement award in the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society.

“I am very happy to receive the Mac Van Valkenburg Award,” says Professor Lian. “Twenty years ago, I helped coin the term, ‘biomedical circuits and systems (BioCAS)’, build the IEEE BioCAS Technical Committee and guide the progression of the field.”

Professor Peter Lian receiving the Mac Van Valkenburg Award.
Professor Lian’s Mac Van Valkenburg Award.

In addition, Professor Lian was honoured with an IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems Best Paper Award for his research titled, A 13.34uW Event-Driven Patient-Specific ANN Cardiac Arrhythmia Classifier for Wearable ECG Sensors.

Working together with his PhD students, Professor Lian developed an energy efficient solution for wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) devices, which are used to identify cardiovascular problems by detecting irregular heartbeats. The proposed solution reduces the power required to detect these abnormalities, allowing for longer usage time and smaller devices.

“Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the world,” says Professor Lian. “That is why we’re looking at solutions in this area. We need to develop wearable and cost-effective systems that are convenient for patients to use in order to help detect early warning signs of cardiovascular diseases and reduce hospital visits.”

Typically, ECG sensors constantly monitor a patient’s heart rhythm, whether an irregularity is detected or not. Sensors which can be used at home collect raw ECG data and wirelessly transmit it to a mobile phone – this requires a large amount of energy and limits battery life. Professor Lian’s work proposes a novel, event-driven approach to reduce the amount of ECG data collected by allowing an artificial neural network (ANN) to process events which can be used to classify different types of cardiac arrhythmia. This way, the device can save energy by focusing on critical events, rather than using excess power to monitor the heart’s constant rhythm.

Professor Peter Lian and his student receiving the Best Paper Award.
Professor Lian and his student receiving the Best Paper Award.

In a full-circle moment and as a testament to his prestige, Professor Lian was also elected as the IEEE Division I Director for 2024-2025. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to technological innovation and advancement for the benefit of humanity.

“The main purpose of this role is to help shape the IEEE as a whole, not just my division,” he says. “I will support collaboration between researchers and engineers, look at how we can meet needs of industry, underdeveloped regions and IEEE members in this changing world. It is also an honour to be the first person from Canada elected to this prestigious position.”