About Me

Electrical Engineering Ph.D. at Stanford | Sustainable Internet of Things at S4 Lab

I am an Electrical Engineering Ph.D. student at Stanford University with a passion for building low-power sensing and wireless systems to address sustainability challenges in the natural and built environment. I received my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University with a concentration in Robotics, a minor in Environmental Engineering, and also the Segal Design Certificate. I have a strong interest in embedded systems, human-centered design, and automation. I like to think outside of the box and analyze engineering problems with a flexible mindset, and I aspire to use my skills to design sustainable technologies that can transform the world into a better place.


  • C/C++, Embedded Python, Linux, Git, HTML/CSS, MATLAB
  • PCB Design (KiCAD, EAGLE, EasyEDA)
  • Software Defined Radio (GNU Radio, USRP, HackRF)
  • CAD (SOLIDWORKS, NX, Creo, Onshape, and AutoCAD)
  • Robotics and Feedback System Design
  • Patent and White Space Analysis
  • Project Management and Public Speaking
  • Speaks Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Spanish

  • Fun facts about me: I am an artist, fish enthusiast, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.

    Highlighted Features

    Dirt-powered fuel cell runs forever

    A Northwestern University-led team of researchers has developed a new fuel cell that harvests energy from microbes living in dirt to power sensors and communications.

    Bill burying MFCs

    CEE Celebrates the Excellence of the 2023 Graduating Class

    Bill received the Ovid W. Eshbach Award from the McCormick School of Engineering for overall excellence in scholarship and leadership.

    Grads to Watch in Energy and Sustainability

    Bill was recognized by the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy (ISEN) as a Grad to Watch as he continues his research in sustainable electronics post graduation.

    ISEN grad to watch

    Northwestern Grads to Celebrate ’23

    Bill was spotlighted as one of the seven Grads to Celebrate in the undergraduate class of 2023, where he represented the McCormick School of Engineering and discussed his NU experience and future goals.

    Wildcat Impact Award for Discovery

    Bill was recognized by the Northwestern community for his leadership in Engineers for a Sustainable World, where he built an automated aquaponic system from scratch and transferred his skills to the next generation of student leaders.

    IAEP Logo

    Student Engineers Working Toward Greener World Through Innovation

    Northwestern's chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World is building a greener future through constructing an automated aquaponic system in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center.

    Bill Yen Awarded the IAEP Scholarship

    Bill Yen (BS ’23) was awarded the 1st place Illinois Association of Environmental Professionals (IAEP) Scholarship for his proposal on sustainability in business practices.

    IAEP Logo

    NUHome by engiNUity

    Northwestern's NUHome was awarded the Residential Grand Winner in the 2021 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

    ESW-AutoAquaponics Continues Progress Over Pandemic

    McCormick Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Ellen Worsdall discussed how student organizations have overcame challenges due to COVID-19 regulations.

    Arbor Air Purifier

    Three first-year students won the White Space Product Developement Challenge for designing a natural air purifier that uses moss to clean air.


    As a whole-brain engineer, I don't let my field of study define me. To further my knowledge and push the boundary of my imagination, I take on a variety of interdisciplinary projects that focus on human-centered design and sustainability.

    Soil-Powered Computing

    PACM IMWUT Vol. 7, No. 4 (Jan. 2024)
    Ka Moamoa Lab + Wells Lab
    Jun 2020 - Aug 2023


    Engineers for a Sustainable World
    Mar 2020 - June 2023

    Series Elastic Actuator Joint

    Course: Robotics Design Studio I
    Jan 2023 - Mar 2023

    Swarm Robotics Projects

    Course: Swarms and Multi-Robot Systems
    Sep 2022 - Dec 2022

    B.U.R.N. Meter

    Independent Project
    Jun 2022 - Aug 2022

    youBot Control System

    Course: Robotics Manipulation
    Nov 2021 - Dec 2021

    Dice in Cup Physics Simulation

    Course: Theory of Machines - Dynamics
    Nov 2021 - Dec 2021


    Solar Decathlon Design Challenge
    Jul 2020 - Apr 2021

    CowPie2Pellets Case Study

    Course: Projects Practicum in Environmental Engineering
    Nov 2020 - Dec 2020

    Mapping Heat Island Effect in Chicago

    Earth Hacks
    Oct 2020


    McCormick Design-A-Thon
    Sep 2020

    QIIME 2 Output Cleaner

    Wells Lab
    Aug 2020 - Sep 2020


    White Space Product Development Challenge
    PDMA Global Student Innovation Challenge
    Dec 2019 - Aug 2020


    Design Thinking and Communication
    Apr 2020 - Jun 2020


    Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
    Sep 2019 - Dec 2019


    Low-Power Sensing Research Assistant, September 2020 - August 2023
    Evanston, IL

    I entered the Ka Moamoa Lab shortly after starting my undergraduate research journey due to my interest in building low-power sensors that can harvest energy from their surroundings. As someone who was working on generating electricity through the use of soil microbial fuel cells (SMFC) in the Wells Lab at the same time, I was particularly interested in finding methods to harness the ~200 µW power that a SMFC could provide. I started by attempting to power a STM32WLE5JC transceiver board with the SMFC, which gave me hands-on experience with LoRa and the Helium network. I also performed energy calculations for the overall sensing and wireless communication system, which allowed me to make design decisions based on the power budget.


    To further increase the runtime of SMFC-powered devices, I turned to utilizing analog backscatter as the method of choice for wireless communication. Under the guidance of Dr. Josiah Hester and Dr. Nivedita Arora, I collaborated with Ph.D. students from the Georgia Institute of Technology to create analog sensors that transmits environmental data via backscatter with <1 µW of power. I designed and assembled numerous iterations of the board using KiCAD , which gave me the opportunity to dive into analog and RF circuit design. In addition, I leveraged HackRFs and GNU Radio to build a custom transceiver system to record the data transmitted by these SMFC-powered sensors to study their long-term performance. My time at Ka Moamoa has been instrumental to my development as a person, researcher, and engineer. I led teams across multiple universities on various projects centered around soil-powered computing, and have been fortunate to receive excellent mentorship from both inside and outside of the lab. Moving forward, I hope to continue the lab's mission by taking on cutting edge, sustainable systems research in my own work.

    Soil Battery Research Assistant, June 2020 - August 2023
    Evanston, IL
    soil MFC

    I began my journey in the Wells Lab in June of 2020 to work on a remote bioinformatics project and process raw 16s rRNA data with QIIME 2 and produce community composition plots using Python to further the understanding of the ecology of microbial fuel cells. This sparked my interest in bio-electrochemical systems and led me to join the soil microbial fuel cell (SMFC) project undertaken by the Wells Lab, Ka Moamoa Lab, and collaborators from UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego. Our goal is to design resilient microbe-powered soil batteries to provide renewable energy supplies to distributed sensor networks for agricultural and green infrastructure monitoring, which will not only eliminate the need for toxic chemical batteries but also enable the creation of fully self-sustaining IoT systems.

    soil MFC

    As an undergraduate researcher, I took advantage of my knowledge of renewable energy to construct a solar charging system to power outdoor data loggers for off-grid cell performance monitoring. I also contribute by leveraging 3D printing and laser cutting to conduct rapid prototyping and explore unique geometries for the cells. I previously devised models and schematics for the manufacturing of 16 SMFC scaled-up prototypes with SOLIDWORKS, and I worked to design cells that can perform regardless of soil moisture levels, which we have found to be crucial to their power output.

    Crop Production Innovation Intern, June 2022 - August 2022
    Burr Ridge, IL

    While interning at CNH Industrial's NAFTA Regional Headquarter in Burr Ridge, IL, I led a project to design, prototype, and test a multi-depth soil moisture and temperature sensing module intended to be mounted on a moving tillage implement, which ultimately resulted in 3 new IP filings. This device has the potential to generate high-definition 3D maps of soil moisture and soil temperature levels throughout the field, enabling farmers to adjust their operations accordingly to maximize their yield. With the support of the Product Validation, Autonomous Operations, and New Holland Rapid Prototyping teams as well as my supervisors, I conceptualized and built the entirety of the sensing module from its electrical circuit and backend software to the ruggedized mechanical design of the sensor housing.


    In the process of creating the electrical system of the sensing module, I dove deep into both analog and digital electronics and designed custom printed circuit boards to minaturize the final circuit layout. Through modifying and debugging the sensors, I gained hands-on experience designing sensors from fundamental physics, and improved my understanding of high frequency signals processing.

    On the software side, I utilized C++ and Python to convert raw sensor values into CAN messages that the data logger in the tractor cabin can receive, which sharpened my skills in digital communication protocols (CAN, I2C), data acquisition/processing, and embedded programming with microcontrollers in general.


    To design the housing of the module, I took into account the stress and torque the sensors experience as they cut through soil at high speed, and used Creo Parametric to create all the 3D models and dimensioned drawings necessary to manufacture the device. This integrated my knowledge of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), and gave me first-hand experience with sheet metal design and creating heavy-duty waterproof enclosures. I operated a stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer as well as a variety of metal working tools to construct the housing out of steel and resin. After evaluating the initial prototype performance, I further improved the housing's rigidity by manufacturing it out of glass-infused nylon with a selective laser sintering (SLS) printer.


    My time at CNH Industrial enabled me to integrate the entirety of my engineering skillset (software, electronics, mechanical) into innovating new solutions in the field of precision agriculture and automation. I gained exposure to corporate R&D, and created value for the company by taking a holistic approach for this complex problem. CNH inspired me to go beyond the obvious and onto the cutting edge, where I hope to remain to continue inventing new technologies that address the ever-increasing challenges associated with climate change.

    Environmental Engineering Intern, June 2021 - September 2021
    Bedford, IN
    interns photo

    Throughout the summer of 2021, I had the privilege of interning for General Motors at the Bedford GPS plant near Bloomington, IN where I gained first hand experience with environmental compliance in air, water, and hazardous waste and tackled large-scale sustainability projects such as GM’s Zero Waste and decarbonizing initiatives. My time working in the office, on the plant floor, and in the three wastewater treatment plants directly next to the plant taught me to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of manufacturing and the importance of system thinking, and it also inspired me to innovate and look for solutions beyond the obvious.


    By leveraging my software and workplace automation skills, I helped GM’s global Sustainable Workplaces department shortcut their annual chemical inventory workflow from an entire day of work to just seconds through building a custom Python data processing application with a complete GUI and creating the necessary training material for GM’s engineers to use the program.

    By integrating my knowledge of environmental monitoring systems and microbial fuel cells, I increased the resilience of Bedford GPS and decreased the amount of labor required to ensure compliance through proposing and facilitating the acquisition of two novel bio-electrochemical sensors for real-time BOD measurements.


    By taking a human-centered approach and a tinkerer’s mindset, I aided in the installation of exciting wastewater treatment technologies through constructing 12+ standardized procedures for the operation and maintenance of a new Dissolved Air Flotation mixed liquor suspended solid removal system and a self-cleaning turbidity sensor module.

    General Motors pushed me to Be Bold, Innovate Now, and Win With Integrity, and instilled in me the importance of including sustainability upstream the design process, all of which have became significant cornerstones of my engineering philosophy.


    • Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
      Published a first-author journal paper on enabling soil-powered computing with microbial fuel cells and low-power backscatter sensors.
    • Stanford University
      Selected as one of the top Ph.D. students in the incoming cohort to receive a competitive internal fellowship of more than $340,000 dispersed over three years.
    • McCormick School of Engineering
      Selected as the graduate who most closely typifies the ideal engineering student among the entire senior class and for overall excellence in scholarship and leadership.
    • Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy
      Spotlighted as a Grad to Watch from the Northwestern graduating senior class as a promising future leader in the field of energy and sustainability.
    • Northwestern Magazine
      Nominated to represent the McCormick School of Engineering as a Grad to Celebrate among the 7 total awardees in the class of 2023.
    • Northwestern Division of Student Affairs
      Recognized for significantly contributing to improving the quality of student life at Northwestern as the founder of AutoAquaponics, which the university spotlights as an example of engineering excellence and stewardship.
    • Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
      Selected for outstanding academic performance in the senior engineering class to join Tau Beta Pi, a national engineering honor society representing engineers from all disciplines.
    • Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors
      Co-authored a poster presentation for the 2022 Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Research and Education Conference on terrestrial microbial fuel cells.
    • The Energy & Environmental Building Alliance
      Received a scholarship to travel to Denver, CO to attend EEBA’s 2021 High Performance Home Summit to present Northwestern’s winning design from the 2021 Solar Decathlon Building Design Challenge.
    • Illinois Association of Environmental Professionals
      Awarded $2000 by the IAEP, a multi-disciplinary society of professionals dedicated to enhancing environmental quality, for extracurricular and academic excellence and a winning essay on the business case for sustainability.
    • U.S. Department of Energy
      Placed first among 50+ undergraduate and graduate teams from all over the world in the Residential Building division with NUHome, a net-zero urban single family house with an Accessory Dwelling Unit, indoor moss wall, ductless HVAC system, superb thermal envelope, and greywater reuse.
    • McCormick School of Engineering
      Developed a functional iOS app prototype, created a presentation, and made a 3 minute video detailing our design within less than 48 hours and placed within the top 4 overall out of more than 40 undergraduate and graduate teams.
    • Product Development and Management Association
      Placed 5th among numerous undergraduate and graduate teams from all over the world in the PDMA Global Student Innovation Challenge, an international product design competition with a focus on rigorous human-centered design processes and establishing sustainable solutions from both business and engineering perspectives.
    • Product Development and Management Association & Segal Professional Bridge
      Won the White Space Product Development Challenge, a Midwestern product design competition involving both undergraduate and graduate students from numerous universities.
    • Office of Undergraduate Research - Northwestern University
      Received $3500 to conduct an independent research project on the performances of soil microbial fuel cells under the guidance of Prof. George Wells from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
    • The Garage at Northwestern
      Designed and pitched FishEats, an automatic fish feeder with the consistency that customers can trust, and placed 1st in the Launch Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program hosted by The Garage at Northwestern, which earned the team $300 in funding to bring the device to market.
    • Segal Design Institute
      This award is given to the team that created the best prototype and design for their respective user and client in their category as a part of the Design Thinking and Communication course offered by Northwestern University’s Segal Design Institute.


    Bill's resume

    Click here for full CV

    Contact Me

    Feel free to reach out to me at billmembers33@gmail.com
    I can also be contacted via LinkedIn

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