John A. McNeill, PhD, a faculty member at WPI since 1994, has been named interim Dean of Engineering. He has just completed a year as a visiting researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, working on a team developing a wearable wireless sensor for prevention of pressure ulcers (bedsores). In addition to his work in biomedical sensing, McNeill’s research interests include digitally assisted calibration of analog-to-digital converters used in low power sensor systems.
After working in industry during the 1980s, McNeill returned to school and received his PhD from Boston University in 1994. His PhD work was a collaboration with Analog Devices to develop design techniques to reduce noise in integrated oscillators used in telecommunication systems. He continues to maintain close ties to industry as founding director of the New England Center for Analog and Mixed Signal Design, a university-industry collaborative that conducts research on cutting-edge mixed signal (analog + digital) integrated circuits and systems.
"My favorite course to teach is ECE3204, Microelectronics II. This course is right on the boundary between analog signals in the physical world and digital processing and storage of information. It's a great course for students who want to know "how things work." I use a digital audio system as the theme for the course, following the audio signal as it travels through the system. We start from an analog source such as a microphone or guitar pickup, through filtering, sampling, and analog-to-digital conversion; then, after storage and processing in the digital domain, conversion back to analog form and power amplification to drive headphones or a speaker.
Before joining WPI, I spent almost 10 years in the electronics industry, so I bring an additional, more applied perspective to my teaching. A student who becomes excited about a "real world" application of a concept and wants to take this energy to the next level might need a better explanation, a new resource, or a different approach. This is when I feel I can really make a difference in the student’s education, when he or she is ready to really take off.
My research and project advising interests are focused on university-industry collaboration through the New England Center for Analog and Mixed Signal Design (NECAMSID) and emphasizes design of cutting-edge mixed (analog + digital) integrated circuits and systems. Both graduate and undergraduate students work in the Center. To me, this is central to WPI's mission of educating excellent engineers who are equipped with the necessary tools to not only do their job on day one, but also advance into leadership and innovation positions in their field.
Finally, when students ask me for advice on what kind of problems to pursue, I advise them to follow what they are passionate about. In my experience, success is a combination of luck, timing, and preparation. You can't do much about the luck, but if you are working in an area that interests you and you're prepared for an opportunity when things break your way, good things happen!"