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Eric Fossum

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Eric R. Fossum (born October 17, 1957) is an Emmy award-winning American engineer and professor, who co-developed some of the active pixel image sensor with intra-pixel charge transfer, with the help of other scientists from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[1] He is currently a professor at Thayer School of Engineering in Dartmouth College.

Early years and education[edit]

Fossum was born at Hartford Hospital and raised in Simsbury, Connecticut and attended public school there. He graduated from Simsbury High School. He also spent Saturdays at the Talcott Mountain Science Center in Avon, CT, which he credits for his lifelong interest in science, engineering, and mentoring students. He received his B.S. in engineering from Trinity College in 1979, and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Yale University in 1984. In 2014, he received an honorary doctor of science degree from his undergraduate school, Trinity College.[2]

Academic career[edit]

During the 4th year of his PhD, Eric R. Fossum became an acting instructor at Yale University.[3] After graduating Yale, the now Dr. Fossum became a member of the Electrical Engineering faculty at Columbia University from 1984 to 1990. At Columbia University, he and his students performed research on CCD focal-plane image processing and high speed III-V CCDs. In 1990, Dr. Fossum left his university professorship and joined the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology to manage JPL's image sensor and focal-plane technology research and advanced development.

In 2007 he co-sponsored the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Robot Contest,[4] aimed at increasing innovation and invention in the world of robotics.

He joined the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth in 2010, where he currently teaches, performs research on the Quanta Image Sensor[5] with his graduate students, and coordinates the Ph.D. Innovation Program.[6] He also serves as Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.

Since 1987, Eric has supervised 23 doctoral dissertations throughout his faculty positions at Columbia and Dartmouth.[3]


While Fossum was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), then-NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin invoked a plan of "Faster, Better, Cheaper" for NASA Space Science missions. One of the instrument goals was to miniaturize charge-coupled device (CCD) camera systems onboard interplanetary spacecraft. In response, throughout the early 1990s, the JPL team including Fossum, Sunetra Mendis and Sabrina E Kemeny, made some changes to the already invented CMOS active-pixel sensor (APS). They implemented Dr. Nobukazu Teranishi's pinned photo diode invention in on chip as camera-on-a-chip technology. They also included other invented technologies by other people, such as a sample and hold in the sensor chip. [7][8]

Based on these changes and additions, the JPL team made their first image sensor. The same year, he co-authored an extensive paper broadly defining the active-pixel sensor (APS) and giving a historical overview of the technology.[citation needed] The invention of APS technology was done by the Japanese companies Olympus and Toshiba during the mid-to-late 1980s, noting the former developed the vertical APS structure with NMOS transistors and the latter developed the lateral APS structure with PMOS transistors. The JPL team was the first to fabricate a practical APS outside of Japan, while making several key improvements to APS technology. The JPL sensor used a lateral APS structure similar to the Toshiba sensor, but was fabricated with CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) transistors rather than PMOS transistors.[9] This made JPL's APS device the first CMOS sensor with intra-pixel charge transfer.[10]

In 1994, JPL image sensor team proposed an improvement to the CMOS sensor: the integration of the pinned photodiode (PPD). A CMOS sensor with PPD technology was first fabricated in 1995 by a joint JPL and Kodak team that included Fossum along with P.P.K. Lee, R.C. Gee, R.M. Guidash and T.H. Lee. Further refinements to the CMOS sensor with PPD technology between 1997 and 2003 led to CMOS sensors achieve imaging performance on par with CCD sensors, and later exceeding CCD sensors.[10]

As part of Goldin's directive to transfer space technology to the public sector whenever possible, JPL led the CMOS APS development and subsequent transfer of the technology to US industry, including Eastman Kodak, AT&T Bell Labs, National Semiconductor and others. Despite initial skepticism by entrenched CCD manufacturers, the CMOS image sensor technology is now used in almost all cell-phone cameras, many medical applications such as capsule endoscopy and dental x-ray systems, scientific imaging, automotive safety systems, DSLR digital cameras and many other applications. About 8 billion cameras are manufactured each year using CMOS technology.[11]


In 1995, frustrated by the slow pace of the technology's adoption, Fossum and then-wife Dr. Sabrina Kemeny co-founded Photobit Corporation with 3 other co-founders to commercialize the technology.[12] Fossum left JPL to join Photobit full-time in 1996.

In late 2001, Micron Technology Inc. acquired Photobit Corp. and Dr. Fossum was named a Senior Micron Fellow and remained with Micron for about a year before his first retirement.

In 2005, he joined SiWave Inc., a developer of MEMS technology for mobile phone handsets, as CEO. SiWave was renamed Siimpel and grew substantially before his departure in 2007. Fossum claimed to have raised over $25M in financing during his tenure as CEO, adding to Siimple's total $65M in funding over its lifetime.[13] But ultimately, a severely damaged Siimpel was acquired three years later by Tessera for only $15M.[14]

In 1986, he co-founded the IEEE Workshop on CCDs, now known as the International Image Sensor Workshop (IISW). In 2007, with Nobukazu Teranishi and Albert Theuwissen, he co-founded and was the first President of the International Image Sensor Society (IISS)[15] which operates the IISW. Dr. Fossum currently sits on the Governance Advisory Committee at IISS.

His most recent entrepreneurial pursuit was in 2017 when Fossum co-founded Gigajot Technology, Inc. with two former Dartmouth PhD students, Dr. Saleh Masoodian and Dr. Jiaju Ma, to commercialize the Quanta Image Sensor (QIS) technology developed in his lab at Dartmouth College.[16] [17] [18]

Achievements and awards[edit]

Eric R. Fossum has published over 300 technical papers,[19] and holds more than 180 U.S. patents.[20] He is a Fellow member of the IEEE. He has been primary thesis adviser to a number of graduated Ph.D.s.

He has received several prizes and honors including:


  1. ^ B. Stern, Inventors at Work, Apress 2012.
  2. ^ "Eric R. Fossum '79, H'14".
  3. ^ a b "Eric R. Fossum" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Trinity Fire Fighting Robot Contest -Event Sponsors". Archived from the original on 2014-01-30. Retrieved 2007-09-11.
  5. ^ Fossum, E. R. (1 September 2013). "Modeling the Performance of Single-Bit and Multi-Bit Quanta Image Sensors". IEEE Journal of the Electron Devices Society. 1 (9): 166–174. CiteSeerX doi:10.1109/JEDS.2013.2284054. S2CID 14510385.
  6. ^ Engineering, Thayer School of. "PhD Innovation Program - Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth". engineering.dartmouth.edu.
  7. ^ B. Stern, Inventors at Work, Apress 2012.
  8. ^ e.g. US Patents 5,471,515 and 5,841,126
  9. ^ Fossum, Eric R. (12 July 1993). Blouke, Morley M. (ed.). "Active pixel sensors: are CCDs dinosaurs?". SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1900: Charge-Coupled Devices and Solid State Optical Sensors III. Charge-Coupled Devices and Solid State Optical Sensors III. 1900. International Society for Optics and Photonics: 2–14. Bibcode:1993SPIE.1900....2F. CiteSeerX doi:10.1117/12.148585. S2CID 10556755.
  10. ^ a b Fossum, Eric R.; Hondongwa, D. B. (2014). "A Review of the Pinned Photodiode for CCD and CMOS Image Sensors". IEEE Journal of the Electron Devices Society. 2 (3): 33–43. doi:10.1109/JEDS.2014.2306412.
  11. ^ "Engineering alum Eric Fossum wins Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering". YaleNews. January 29, 2018. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  12. ^ "Photobit Corporation". www.twst.com.
  13. ^ cite web|url=https://image-sensors-world.blogspot.com/2007/09/eric-fossum-left-siimpel.html
  14. ^ cite web|url=https://www.socaltech.com/Siimpel_Acquired_By_Tessera/s-0028417.html
  15. ^ "International Image Sensor Society". www.imagesensors.org.
  16. ^ "United States SEC Database". www.secdatabase.com.
  17. ^ "Berkshire Hathaway Press Release". www.businesswire.com.
  18. ^ "Eric R. Fossum". Dartmouth Engineering. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  19. ^ See Google Scholar
  20. ^ USPTO Search 2020
  21. ^ "PSA Progress Medal".
  22. ^ "Royal Photographic Society". www.rps.org.
  23. ^ "Inductee Detail - National Inventors Hall of Fame".
  24. ^ "National Academy of Inventors". www.academyofinventors.org. Archived from the original on 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  25. ^ "National Academy of Engineering Elects 69 Members And 11 Foreign Associates".
  26. ^ Webmaster. "Six Honorary Degrees to be Awarded at Commencement". www.trincoll.edu.
  27. ^ "2017 QEPrize Winners - Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering".
  28. ^ "Edwin H. Land Medal". The Optical Society.

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