David Bishop Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

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Becomes third BU engineer to join prestigious society

By Liz Sheeley

When Division Head of Materials Science and Engineering Professor David Bishop (ECE, Physics, MSE, ME, BME) checked his phone last Thursday afternoon, he was stunned by what he saw. After a 50-year research career, Bishop received the news via e-mail that he had just been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the premiere professional society for engineers.

“It’s an amazing group of people and I’m humbled to be a part of it,” says Bishop. “I feel like the only rational response in this situation is to feel honored. I feel gratitude, surprise and humility.”

The NAE pointed to his work in high-capacity optical switch technology he worked on at his 33-year stint at Bell Labs as a major accomplishment to highlight. This was also the reason that he was elected to the National Academy of Inventors last year.

The NAE is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. It has more than 2,000 peer-elected members, drawn from senior professionals in business, academia and government who are among the world’s most accomplished engineers, according to the NAE. Members are nominated and elected based on contributions to engineering research, practice or education; pioneering or advancing fields of engineering; and professional integrity. Notable members include the late Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, astronaut Neil Armstrong, synthetic biology pioneer George Church, transistor co-inventor John Bardeen and Draper Laboratory Founder Charles Stark Draper.

As one of only three members of the NAE at BU, the other two are President Robert A. Brown and Director of the Center for Remote Sensing and Research Professor Farouk El-Baz (Archaeology, ECE), Bishop stands out—but he says that as BU and the College of Engineering continue to grow, he wouldn’t be surprised if more faculty are recognized in this way.

“The College of Engineering has had amazing growth over the past 10 to 15 years, and awards like this is an example of the recognition that the University and College are getting shows that we’ve moved into the upper echelons of engineering schools,” he says.

He also adds that this is one of the top honors of an engineer’s career and he’s not sure how it could get much better than this. But that doesn’t mean his career is over by any means.

“Right now I’m 67 and I’m in the middle of the biggest intellectual challenge of my life,” he says.

Bishop is heading up the interdisciplinary team at BU and two other universities that, under a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center grant, are working to develop personalized heart tissue.

“I’m part of a team that’s working to create an all-encompassing solution for heart disease that might save the lives of millions of people,” says Bishop. To him, this long-term research is akin to playing in his own Super Bowl. “We haven’t won yet, but we are part of this cohesive and extraordinary team that’s constantly strategizing and working together to meet our goal.”

Bishop feels just as he did when he began his career in science when he was 17 years old—excited to solve really difficult problems. “I always knew I wanted to be a scientist—even when I was 10 or 11 years old,” he says. “And if you asked me when I was that age what type of career I wanted to have, it would have been the career that I have had.”


MSE MSE national academy fellows bishop and sarin