Computer science and engineering professor lauded for innovation, teaching, and leadership

Professor Mooi Choo Chuah of Lehigh University's P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science has been named a 2017 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Election to NAI Fellow status is "the highest professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society."

“Mooi Choo is a natural choice for the NAI Fellows program,” says Victor Lawrence, a Distinguished Research Professor from Steven Institute of Technology who nominated Professor Chuah for the fellowship. “Ideas from some of her inventions form the basis of standards that govern several crucial technological areas in mobile and wireless communications. Moreover, she is not only an innovative researcher, but is a great role model for young women considering STEM careers.”

Chuah, a professor of computer science and engineering, joined Lehigh’s faculty in January 2004 after 12 years with Bell Labs. Widely regarded as one of the world's leading researchers and inventors in the field of wireless data and mobile systems, she holds 63 U.S. and 15 International patents, most of them for innovations with wireless LAN (Local Area Network)-based systems, and for features that enable quality of service, mobility management in WLAN and 3G systems. Some of her past PhD, MS and undergraduate students are now working at top technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, Samsung Research, and Snapchat.

At Lehigh, Chuah leads research in the WiNS Laboratory. Her lab maintains active research in the design of secure mobile data systems, mobile healthcare, deep learning based systems for vision-based activity recognition, health care data mining, and resilient smart grid control networks. Yet her research interests allow her to find avenues where her team can contribute in some surprising areas.

“In my work,” she says, “I’m always looking to solve problems that I know will have some kind of positive social impact.”

A ministry to kids with autism

Chuah has taken a special interest in the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which impairs one’s ability to interact with others and to communicate verbally and nonverbally. To gain a firsthand knowledge of ASD, Chuah joined an autism ministry at a local church and consulted with faculty members in Lehigh’s College of Education and Centennial School.

“I try to go and observe the problem I’m trying to solve,” she says, “so that I can gain a better understanding of it.”

She also enjoys working with Lehigh’s undergraduate students, and serves as co-director of its Computer Engineering B.S. program. Recently, she worked with two computer science undergraduates to design Kinect for Kids, a game using a Kinect sensor that allows kids with ASD to play Xbox-like and Wii-like games.

According to Chuah, XBox and Wii games typically run too fast for children with ASD. Kinect for Kids is customizable; its speed can be set according to a user’s ability. Sensors provide the system with skeletal data enabling it to track the movements of a user. Her team’s prototype allowed students to collect stars or dragons on the screen to earn points. The system can be enhanced to let users take part in visual-based sports such as badminton, tennis and skiing. All of the apps designed by Chuah and her group are free and can be downloaded from

During the Fall 2017, Professor Chuah also worked with two teams of seniors in the computer science capstone design course She is guiding one team to design a game editor that would enable Kinect-based games to be used to support individuals and organizations that care for senior citizens. The other team is creating interactive storytelling features for LILI, a robot that helps to coax improved speech and social interaction among children with ASD.

LILI was previously designed in collaboration with Professor John Spletzer, a student from Lehigh’s VADER Lab and students funded under the Lehigh Smart Spaces project, an NSF-funded Research For Undergraduate Experience (REU) site project. Short for “Lehigh Instrument for Learning Interaction,” LILI is a low-cost interactive robot built from scratch by Lehigh students and faculty; when fully operational, LILI will recognize faces, gestures and voices, and follow simple commands.

Improving Disease Prediction with Big Data Analytics

Chuah and her team have also recently begun to investigate how their efforts can be brought to bear in the area of healthcare data mining.

Chuah and her PhD student Qinghan Xue recently used a large dataset to demonstrate an improved disease prediction model for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) that combines data cleaning and careful feature selection with effective machine learning techniques. They also proposed an incentive scheme to encourage hospitals to share and aggregate data in a way that would create better prediction models without running afoul of related information privacy regulations. In addition, Chuah and Xue recently used deep learning methods to create disease diagnosis models based on heterogeneous data collected from multiple healthcare related sources.

In July 2017, she also helped to lead the technical program committee, along with Insup Lee of the University of Pennsylvania, of the Second IEEE/ACM Conference on Connected Health: Applications, Systems and Engineering Technologies. This event brought experts from academia, business and government to share information and help accelerate health care’s transformation.

Chuah who was elevated to IEEE Fellow status in 2015 for her contributions to wireless network system and protocol design believes that this facet of her research could improve the accuracy and usefulness of predictive disease models and, most importantly, patient health outcomes as well.

Chuah received her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and her bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Malaya in Malaysia. She has also served as director of Lehigh’s ADVANCE program, an NSF-supported campus endeavor to enhance recruitment, retention, and the advancement of women faculty across Lehigh’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics community. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance, the Army Research Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

Chuah’s election to the NAI marks the third active Lehigh faculty member to receive this honor over the past four years. In 2014, Dr. Arup Sengupta was elected due to his work in devices and systems that clean toxins from contaminated drinking water; in 2016, Lehigh professor Dr. Nelson Tansu was elected for inventions that have paved the way for vastly improved lighting emitters and lasers in the infrared and telecommunication wavelengths.

The NAI: supporting and celebrating innovation

With the election of the NAI's 2017 class of 155 inventors, there are now 912 Fellows representing more than 250 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. The 2017 Fellows are named inventors on nearly 6,000 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 32,000.

Included among all NAI Fellows are more than 100 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes; 439 members of the three branches of the National Academy of Sciences; 36 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame; 52 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and U.S. National Medal of Science; 29 Nobel Laureates, 261 AAAS Fellows; 168 IEEE Fellows; and 142 Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, among other awards and distinctions.

Academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation. The 2017 NAI Fellows were evaluated by a selection committee which included 18 members, comprising NAI Fellows, U.S. National Medals recipients, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and senior officials from the USPTO, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Association of American Universities, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Association of University Technology Managers, and National Inventors Hall of Fame, among other organizations.

The 2017 NAI Fellows were inducted on April 5, 2017, as part of the organization’s Seventh Annual Conference, held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.