Sunday, April 15, 2012

Radar Brings Engineering Expertise, Research to OU


NORMAN, Okla. – Expertise in weather radar research is synonymous with the University of Oklahoma, home of the National Weather Center, and in a strategic move to expand radar multi-mission capabilities, the university is hiring engineering expertise and building lab capabilities.

While radar plays an important role in weather forecasting and prediction, its application of measuring distance, direction and speed includes many fields. In addition to traditional military remote sensing applications, such as early warning systems for incoming aircraft, radar can be used in the detection of land mines and underground gas leaks, as well as providing “sense and avoid” capabilities to Unmanned Aerial Systems.

That is why the OU College of Engineering recently hired four nationally recognized radar engineers to join the faculty of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Caleb Fulton, Nathan Goodman, Jessica Ruyle and Hjalti Sigmarsson, all with doctorates in electrical engineering, were recruited for their experiences, education and research in remote sensing to offer hands-on training in radar engineering.

“Radar engineers are researching, designing and building new systems and processes for data collection in meteorology, energy, defense, aerospace and other fields,” said Thomas Landers, dean of the College of Engineering. “The addition of these four experienced radar engineers represents a very significant addition of talent that will not only enhance the College of Engineering, but will also benefit our entire state as we compete and lead in radar innovation in all fields.”

Fulton earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University. Fulton’s research interests are in advanced, multi-function phased array systems that leverage recent advances in low-cost transceivers and digital beamforming technologies to provide new radar, communications and electronic warfare capabilities while lowering cost, size, weight and power consumption.

Goodman earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas. Goodman’s research interests are in developing novel system concepts and signal processing techniques to enhance performance of surveillance and imaging radars.

Ruyle earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in the same field from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ruyle’s research interests are in the development and characterization of new electromagnetic devices and platforms, such as antennas, and packaging to improve the performance of radiating systems in challenging environments. The applications for her research range from extremely thin “sticker” antennas for Radio Frequency Identification applications to adaptive antennas for radar systems.

Sigmarsson earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Iceland, Reykjavik, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in the same field from Purdue University. Sigmarsson’s research interests include development and implementation of reconfigurable radio frequency and microwave hardware for the next generation of communications, radar and measurement systems.

The addition of the new faculty members will allow the curriculum for the electrical and computer engineering program to be enhanced. New courses, such as Microwave Systems and Antennas, will give students a wider variety of technical electives. Students specializing in radar engineering also will benefit from the added depth these new courses will bring to the program. In addition, students will see expanded opportunities to engage in research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Construction is currently under way for the Radar Innovations Laboratory that will include a large microwave laboratory, high-bay garage, prototype fabrication facilities, isolated anechoic chambers for the characterization and experimentation of radiating systems, and shared rooms to enhance collaboration. The center, expected to be completed in 2013, will be near the National Weather Center on OU’s Research Campus.

“I’m impressed with the initiative to expand in radar education and research,” Goodman said. “The Radar Innovations Laboratory will allow us to take ideas further than computer simulations, actually building circuit boards, fabricating antennas, testing radar-related electronics and algorithms, and integrating these into systems that work.”

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at OU is the second-largest school in the College of Engineering. There are currently more than 330 undergraduate and 140 graduate students served by 23 faculty members on the Norman campus as well as four faculty members on the Tulsa campus.

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