College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ECpE graduate student paper places second at IEEE Sensors Conference

Future Ph. D, student Silu Feng
Future Ph. D. student Silu Feng

Early this November, Iowa State University Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) Graduate Student Silu Feng

was awarded the prestigious IEEE Sensors Conference 2016 Best Paper Award. Her paper, accepted as an oral presentation and entitled “Rapid Detection of Theophylline Using Aptamer-Based Nanopore Thin Film Sensor,”

placed second out of 617 accepted papers. According to ECpE Associate Professor Long Que, the acceptance rate for the IEEE Sensors Conference is about 55 percent overall and below 20 percent for oral presentations this year, making Feng’s work especially notable.

Feng commented on the opportunity to attend the conference: “This is the first time I attended an international conference; it was an exciting and rewarding experience to know the latest innovations in the sensor field. At the same time, winning this award significantly inspired me to devote more efforts in the future research work.”

Led by Que, Feng worked to find more efficient ways to detect theophylline. Theophylline is a drug used to treat respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. But theophylline is toxic at higher concentrations and can be lethal or lead to permanent neurological damage. This makes it important to test levels quickly and accurately. It currently takes days to analyze the theophylline levels and can require the patient to deliver several blood samples.

However, the work of Feng resulted in the creations of a sensor that can sense theophylline levels very rapidly. This sensor can cut down on analysis times to several minutes and blood samples needed to less than 10 µL.

Sensor designed by Silu Feng

In the two years Que has been at Iowa State, this is the first time one of his students has received an award of this level. By collaborating on this project with Assistant Professor Wei Wang, of the Plant Pathology and

Microbiology Department at Iowa State, Que was able to reach outside of his usual realm and experiment with different applications using nanotechnology-enabled platforms developed in his lab.


Feng will continue her education at Iowa State this summer by working toward her Ph.D. She will also continue her work on the theophylline sensor, developing its applications for different fields.

For more information about the IEEE SENSORS conference and awards, click here.