Electrical engineer currently leads a team that’s developing the Autoscope, an automated microscope that uses machine-learning algorithms to diagnose malaria.

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ELECTRICAL ENGINEER
Cary Champlin

What do you do? I’m a principal electrical engineer at the Intellectual Ventures Lab — a state-of-the-art facility in Bellevue where hackers, engineers and scientists research and run experiments to develop impactful inventions. I currently lead a team that’s developing the Autoscope, an automated microscope that uses machine-learning algorithms to diagnose the four main species of malaria. Traditionally, expert microscopists spend about 20 minutes examining blood for malaria parasites, so this technology could make the identification process much faster and more accurate, which could potentially transform how we fight malaria.

What was your career path? My career started like most college kids—in the local bars. I ran my own business repairing tabletop versions of video games at several bars around town — games like Pong, Space Invaders, Asteroids. Once out of school, I began working at Motorola Government Electronics and Space Group in Arizona, where I designed and built satellites. I then moved to Seattle to join Amazon, inventing a self-learning algorithm to help the shipping process run smoother. And right before I joined IV, I spent seven years with Blue Origin as the chief engineer for the design of the sub-orbital crew capsule.

What’s a typical day like? I’m up early and spend a couple hours in my home office working on my part-time consulting business — Champlin Technologies. I then head to the IV Lab where I manage the machine-learning team and collaborate with partners throughout the world. Each day, I focus on four priorities: How can I eliminate bottlenecks that slow down the team? How can I grow our core capability? How can I encourage excellence in my colleagues? And, with such a multi-discipline staff at IV Lab, what new things can I learn today?

What surprises people about what you do? I think most people are surprised by the breadth of projects I get to work on — building LEO satellites, inventing self-learning algorithms at Amazon, leading the development of Blue Origin’s crew capsule, creating the machine-learning core capability at IV Lab, and, through Champlin Technologies, designing airway pressure monitoring electronics for Seattle Children’s Research Institute to support their clinical research in neonatal ICUs.

What’s the best part of the job? My favorite part of the job is working alongside excellent people who have an insatiable drive to make an impact on the world through science and technology. I get to work with world-class scientists like biologists Amy Steadman and Corrie Ortega, who are developing accurate methods for early detection of HPV in low-resources settings; machine-learning experts who automated malaria diagnosis capability for microscopy; and engineers who invented super-thermos containers that can deliver vaccines for childhood diseases to every remote location on the planet. I also enjoy the fun stuff we invent — like the music-modulated monster Tesla coil, the one-of-a-kind Babbage engine, the mosquito laser zapper and the ping-pong ball cannon.

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