The Five-Minute Interview: Peter Katona

Posted: February 16, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Peter Katona
Peter Katona

Peter Katona was appointed professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering in September 2006 to help establish the first biomedical engineering program for the university.

Katona joined the Whitaker Foundation in 1991 as vice president for biomedical engineering. There he designed and administered grant programs to enhance and establish educational programs in biomedical engineering at universities throughout the United States. He became president and CEO in 2000 and served until the foundation’s closing in June 2006.

He is the author of more than 50 scientific papers on the control of cardiovascular and respiratory systems. He served as president of the Biomedical Engineering Society in 1984-85; received the Distinguished Service Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society in 2005; and won the Pierre Galletti Award from the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in 2006.

Katona received his master’s and doctor of science degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

My greatest work-related accomplishment is … My work while I was with the Whitaker Foundation, which is a foundation that has supported biomedical engineering in a major way, was very important to me and to many in the [biomedical] field. During that time, I generated and supervised a variety of grant programs and oversaw the establishment of many, many departments. We conducted annual site visits and did a lot of hands-on understanding of what was going on at the university. So I think I was somewhat influential in helping the establishment of a large amount of departments in the country; all of it through the foundation. The foundation spent more than $700 million over the last 30 years. My job was to make sure the money was spent wisely.

I came to Mason because … I learned that George Mason was interested in starting a Biomedical Engineering program. Last year, the university learned that the Whitaker Foundation had closed. It was just a coincidence that George Mason and I found out about our mutual interests. Plus, I didn’t have to move from my home in Northern Virginia, as the Whitaker Foundation was based in Rosslyn.

My current focus at Mason is … to help the Dean [Lloyd Griffiths] start a biomedical engineering program and create a curriculum to help him recruit new faculty members to try to understand what is available at George Mason, and what an expert can expect if they were to come to Mason. So we are looking for people who will work well with the program we are creating. And it’s coming along well. Until recently, I was primarily getting acquainted with the university. We’ve already organized a seminar series about bioengineering, and our goal is to invite those whose work relates to biomedical engineering but who don’t really know the school.

When I’m not working, I … love to hike. I love the mountains. I also like to ski, but I don’t get to do that very often. And I love the opera. We like to attend as often as we can.

The second seminar in the Bioengineering Seminar Series will be held Friday, Feb. 16, at 11 a.m. in room 320 of the Science and Tech II building. Juan Cebral, associate professor in the Department of Computational and Data Sciences, will address “Computational Hemodynamics for the Evaluation and Treatment of Brain Aneurysms.”

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