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While Helen Huang was named Jackson Family Distinguished Professor in Biomedical Engineering back in 2020, the story behind this gift was now revisited on the NC State website, in recognition of donor Ira J. “Jerry” Jackson III. A member of NC State’s Lifetime Giving Society and a lifetime member of the Alumni Association, Jerry Jackson said of the gift “I’m pleased to help the biomedical engineering department because it’s a joint department with UNC-Chapel Hill. Yes, they’re the school that we love to hate, but I think it’s absolutely beautiful to draw from the strengths of both schools to do something one couldn’t do alone.”

Indeed, Dr Huang’s outstanding contributions to rehabilitation engineering by developing breakthrough technology for assistive robotic prostheses and exoskeletons have earned her important honors: from the 2021 Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award, to her induction earlier this year as a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Still, being named the Jackson Family Distinguished Professor is among her greatest honors, Huang said. “Everyone doesn’t get that opportunity to be a DP,” she said. “You have to be doing innovative research of high importance.” 

Huang’s latest publication in the Journal of Neural Engineering is a collaboration between BME PhD student Aaron Fleming and the University of Florida’s Professor Daniel Ferris alongside PhD student Nicole Stafford. The paper highlights the promise of electromyography (EMG) control for enabling new functionalities in robotic lower limb prostheses. Aimed at empowering people to be more active and productive, Huang’s work, and that of her department, is a perfect fit for Jackson’s philanthropic intentions. “It’s amazing to know that there’s research going on at NC State that will mitigate the challenge of living with a chronic disease or disability,” Jackson said. “We’re so excited to support that kind of work — it’s literally what ‘Think and Do’ is all about. To see a technology on one hand and to see a need on the other — to be able to fit those together in a way that can improve the human condition — that’s inspiration.” 

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