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Hester Named 2021 Most Promising Engineer or Scientist by AISES

Hester is working toward a sustainable future for computing influenced by his Native Hawaiian heritage

Northwestern Engineering’s Josiah Hester has received the 2021 Most Promising Engineer or Scientist Award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

The award recognizes significant contributions from American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, First Nations, and other Indigenous people of North America to the STEM disciplines.

“I am honored to be recognized, especially as the first Native Hawaiian awarded. I hope aspiring young Indigenous scientists will see that you can celebrate your culture, make it the guiding light of your work, just as I have done, and still make a positive impact,” Hester said. “We urgently need more Native scientists who can lead on the critical issues surrounding sustainability and health.”

Hester, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and of computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering, studies mobile and pervasive computing, wireless sensor networks, and embedded systems. He designs battery-free smart devices and intermittent computing systems that are resilient to frequent and unpredictable power failures, including the first mobile video game console that operates without battery power. He is working toward a sustainable future for computing influenced by his Native Hawaiian (Kanaka maoli) heritage, and applies his work to mobile healthcare, infrastructure monitoring, and conservation.

Hester has advocated for the Kanaka maoli community, as well as Indigenous Ojibwe tribes in the Great Lakes region. He works with tribal governments, foundations, and schools to produce technology and devices to:

  • monitor, evaluate, and sustain the environment in the face of climate change
  • measure health data and eliminate health disparities within Native and Indigenous communities
  • train Indigenous students in programming skills, effectively broadening the channel of Indigenous voices and perspectives in computer science.

Earlier this year, Hester and a group of Northwestern colleagues were awarded a grant to address challenges faced today by the Ojibwe Nations. As part of the Civic Innovation Challenge, led by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with the US Department of Energy and US Department of Homeland Security, the team received $50,000 in funding for its project, “Strengthening Resilience of Ojibwe Nations across Generations (STRONG): Sovereignty, Food, Water, and Cultural (in)Security.” 

Josiah’s work exemplifies what we strive toward – building relationships with tribal nations and collaborating on research that is informed by and responsive to Native American and Indigenous nations and communities. Jasmine Gurneau Northwestern University

“Josiah’s work exemplifies what we strive toward – building relationships with tribal nations and collaborating on research that is informed by and responsive to Native American and Indigenous nations and communities,” said Jasmine Gurneau, manager of Native American and Indigenous Initiatives within the Office of the Provost’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Northwestern University. “These endeavors not only provide students with diverse knowledge and experiences, but demonstrate what the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion is committed to through its work.”

The honor for Hester is part of the AISES Professional Awards program, which celebrates the contributions of Indigenous innovators and professionals in six award categories: Executive Excellence, Technical Excellence, Most Promising Engineer or Scientist, Blazing Flame, Indigenous Excellence, and the Professional of the Year.

Hester will be honored at 2021 AISES National Conference on September 23-25 in Phoenix.