Meet the PARC Researcher: Alex Hegyi Wants You to See the World Through Hyperspectral Imaging
Alex Hegyi is a Member of Research Staff in the PARC Electronic Materials and Devices Lab. Alex invented and leads development of PARC’s hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technology, and he contributes to PARC’s efforts in thermochromic printing, flow cytometry and fiber-optic sensing.
What are you working on these days, Alex?
I’m advancing the development of PARC’s hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technology and working toward its broader market adoption.
What makes hyperspectral imaging so exciting to you?
We’re blind to so much about the material world when we rely solely on human vision or on conventional color imaging technologies that simply aim to replicate human vision. The potential of HSI to provide novel, useful information is vast and cuts across many important fields of endeavor, such as food security, medicine, precision agriculture, homeland security, forensics and even self-driving cars. Many applications will be directly relevant to the average consumer.
How do you envision HSI impacting the world in the coming years?
I think the application to precision agriculture will show the most immediate payoff: it will be possible to decide, based on aerial hyperspectral images, precisely where to apply fertilizer, water crops, or treat diseased regions, as well as to more accurately predict crop yield. I believe HSI will next move into the medical field as a key enabler for endoscopy and robotic surgery platforms, as well as for telemedicine. Finally, as a broader understanding of the potential of HSI becomes commonplace, I envision adoption on cell phones, where this largely untapped potential will be exploited by app developers.
What do you think is still the biggest challenge with HSI?
The biggest challenge is market adoption and spreading awareness of the true capability of HSI to the stakeholders in fields where it can have the most impact.
Tell us a little bit about your journey to PARC?
I’m coming up on 5 years at PARC. I’ve always been very curious about the world around me, trying to understand how things work at a most fundamental level—this is what led me to study Physics at Stanford, where I graduated, with a Bachelor’s, in 2008. I’ve simultaneously been driven by an urge to create, and to apply the knowledge I’ve gained to solving real-world problems. This led me to pursue my PhD in Electrical Engineering at UC Berkeley, with Prof. Eli Yablonovitch. Physics gave me a foundation of deep understanding of the physical world, while Electrical Engineering taught me more about organizing and manipulating information, providing me with many tools to do so. I credit Prof. Yablonovitch for providing me a model of how the two fields can complement one another.
What do you like most about working at PARC?
The best part about working at PARC is and always has been the people—they are consistently some of the most creative, interesting, thoughtful and kind people that I know. Oh, and Wednesday night dodgeball!
If you weren’t working in your field, what other field could you imagine yourself working in?
Good question! Maybe another creative profession, such as being a musician. Within the sciences, I’m interested in the relationship between evolution, neuroscience and psychology.
What is some advice you can offer a young scientist starting their career?
There’s a lot of noise out there. Stay true to your values and don’t get caught up in careerism. It’s not a race, so try not to compare what you’re doing with what others around you appear to be doing. Look where no one else is looking and you might be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
Are there any consumer technologies you’re addicted to right now?
I have an Instapot at home now, and I think it really is worth all the hype! Simple technology done well can make all the difference.
What are you listening to on your commute these days?
Right now, I’m listening to The Tim Ferriss Show.
Alex Hegyi is a Member of Research Staff in the PARC Electronic Materials and Devices Laboratory. Alex invented and leads development of PARC’s hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technology. Alex’s expertise is broadly in the realm of optical and optoelectronic systems; he has inventions in and contributes to PARC’s development efforts in thermochromic printing, flow cytometry, and fiber-optic sensing. Alex graduated in 2013 with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was advised by Prof. Eli Yablonovitch and fully supported by a Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship. He received his B.S. with Honors and Distinction in Physics from Stanford University in 2008. He holds 12 patents from work performed prior to PARC and has many more pending. Alex is also an MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35.
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