Mechanical and aerospace engineering professor David Horsley has been elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). NAI Fellowship highlights inventors in academia for creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made an impact on quality of life, economic development and societal welfare, as well as a “prolific spirit of innovation.”
Horsley was one of 175 elected this year and one of two from UC Davis—the other being Michael Rogawski from the UC Davis School of Medicine. He is the 13th UC Davis faculty member to receive the honor, the ninth from the College of Engineering and the second from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, joining professor Cristina Davis, who was recognized last year. He will be recognized at the 10th annual NAI meeting on June 8, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
“It has been very gratifying to turn university research into real products that impact peoples' lives,” said Horsley. “I'm honored to be elected a Fellow of the NAI in recognition of my work”
Horsley is known for his innovation with micro-electromechanical sensors (MEMS) technology to create next-generation sensors and actuators for consumer electronics. He is perhaps best-known the co-founder and chief technology officer of TDK-Chirp microsystems, which manufactures ultrasonic sensors using MEMS technology. These small, low-power sensors use sonar like bats to detect objects in 3D.
"About 10 years ago, I realized that ultrasonic sensors could be made smaller, cheaper, and more versatile using silicon MEMS,” he said. “Luckily, I was able to turn this concept into a couple of successful products that made it to market: an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor that is being used in laptops today and a line of ultrasonic time-of-flight sensors used in products from smart-locks to robot vacuum cleaners.”
Other applications over the years have included drone and robot navigation, precise 3D tracking for virtual/augmented reality/gaming and wearable tags for COVID-19 contact tracing. Overall, he holds 21 issued and licensed U.S. patents and 11 patent pending applications.
Horsley joined UC Davis in 2003 and has since won an NSF CAREER Award and the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in mechanical engineering.
The National Academy of Inventors was founded in 2010 to highlight and promote academic inventors and change the culture of academia to recognize and reward the value of faculty patents and commercialization. It now has more than 4000 members and fellows in over 250 institutions worldwide.