2007 Distinguished achievement award: Dorin Panescu

// Electrical & Computer Engineering

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Dorin Panescu
Principal Staff Scientist
St. Jude Medical Inc.
MSECE ’91, PhDECE ’93
Sunnyvale, California

Dorin Panescu’s father is a former high school physics teacher and, when Panescu was an intensely curious fifth grader, his father showed him how a radio transmits sound waves. “That demonstration,” Panescu says, “opened up a new world of thinking for a 10-year-old boy.”

In 1989, when communism fell and opportunities for far-flung travel and education finally opened to Eastern Europeans, Panescu began considering a doctoral degree from an American university. A year later, the 28-year-old engineer left Romania to interview at several U.S. engineering schools, including UW-Madison. He recalls an instant rapport with Biomedical Engineering Professor John Webster, who shared Panescu’s passion for medical instrumentation.

At his job in Romania, Panescu had worked on manufacturing electronic temperature regulators and other instruments similar in architecture to medical devices. That background proved useful in Webster’s lab as he pursued electrical modeling research on cardiac implant devices.

After earning his PhD in 1993, Panescu left Wisconsin for northern California to join EP Technologies. He then spent eight years with Boston Scientific, where he was recognized three times for his patent milestones. To date, Panescu is the inventor or co-inventor on 129 U.S. patents—most related to cardiac catheters, as well as hardware and software for a variety of medical imaging, diagnoses and therapy systems.

In 2005, Panescu joined the cardiac rhythm management division at St. Jude Medical Inc. His work focuses on two devices: implantable heart defibrillators designed to treat potentially lethal arrhythmias, and pacemakers, devices that send electrical signals to help the heart beat in a regular rhythm. (Coincidentally, earlier versions of these types of devices also were the thrust of his research at UW-Madison.)

Panescu has two daughters from his first marriage. Julia, 20, is a psychology student at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Priera, 16, is a junior in high school. Each summer they lead their dad on a trip—most often Disneyland or Disney World. But as they have matured, so have their travel tastes and recently, the trio traveled to London, Paris and the coast of the Black Sea.

Panescu also returns occasionally to his hometown, Deva, located in western Romania. Several years ago he traveled there to celebrate his father’s 70th birthday. During that trip, to Panescu’s happy surprise, he met an accountant named Luminita. The two married last year.