Educator takes tech prowess from business to the Ivy Tower

Christopher will launch a 3-D imaging processing course in the fall 2011 semester.
Christopher will launch a 3-D imaging processing course in the fall 2011 semester.

After a private-sector career capped off with induction in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, Lauren Christopher is working with college students and developing what she sees as the future of television: 3-D displays that don’t require glasses.

Officials announced May 20 that Christopher, an associate professor at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis since 2008, would join technology trailblazers such as Apple CEO Steve Jobs and famed television pioneer Vladimir Zworykin in the CE Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame ceremony will be held at the Consumer Electronics Association’s Industry Forum Oct. 17-20 in San Francisco.

Christopher, who earned her master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, managed the engineering team that created DirecTV’s digital satellite receiver system in the 1990s—marking a major milestone in user-friendly satellite TV.

She oversaw about 30 software, hardware, and manufacturing engineers for three years before DirecTV hit the market and almost immediately gained traction among consumers.

Nearly 20 years after starting her work with DirecTV, Christopher, who lives in Indianapolis, now teaches courses on circuits and digital systems.

She’s also developing a 3-D imaging processing course for the fall 2011 semester, when engineering students will examine current 3-D displays and how they can be improved for medical imaging, among other uses, in the school’s 3-D imaging lab.

Christopher said she shifted to higher education after success in the business world because she wanted to delve into research and train the next generation of engineers.

“I really enjoy working with students, and you can learn a lot while you’re doing the mentoring thing,” she said. “It’s been an experience to learn about the craft of teaching and engage in the research that’s out there. … Teaching is the perfect job for where I am in my career.”

Christopher’s research at IU-PUI includes studying 3-D imaging algorithms that can help medical professionals, for example, with real-time analysis of 3-D data.

Improving 3-D algorithms, she said, could clear up “noisy images” like ultrasounds that often produce blurry images. Those imperfect images aren’t suitable for medical professionals preparing for procedures that require the utmost precision, Christopher said.

“We want to make the picture clearer,” she said. “Ideally, you can work on pulling out just what you want in the image.”

Christopher’s CE Hall of Fame induction is one of more than half a dozen honors she’s racked up during her career in electronics. Among her other honors are the 1990 Tribute to Women and Industry Achievement Award and the 2002 Technical EMMY Award for DSS.

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