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Clarkson PhD duo recognized for underwater laser detection and ranging research

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POTSDAM - Two Clarkson University electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. students have been nationally recognized for their underwater laser detection and ranging (lidar) research.

David Illig of Norfolk received a Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship from the United States Department of Defense. The scholarship will fund Illig’s tuition for three years of Ph.D. study at Clarkson. It also guarantees him a full-time research position at Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Md., upon graduating. There were only 142 SMART scholarships awarded nationwide out of 2,000 applications.

Luke Rumbaugh of Canton earned second place and $2,000 at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Oceanic Engineering Society Student Poster Competition in San Diego, Calif. Rumbaugh’s research on fiber lasers for hybrid lidar was one of only 16 submissions that were selected for the competition from 100 received abstracts.

“This competition gave us great exposure. We got to show our work to experts and users in the underwater community,” Rumbaugh said. “To be recognized with the prize is really exciting and motivating.”

Both Illig and Rumbaugh also have previously received fellowships that have enabled them to spend summers at the center doing research.

The underwater lidar researched by Rumbaugh and Illig aims to develop new technology to better operate in cloudy or murky waters, according to William Jemison, professor and chair of Clarkson’s Department Electrical & Computer Engineering and vice provost for research.

“We’re trying to develop hardware and signal processing to see through this challenging optical environment,” Jemison said.

Jemison praised Illig and Rumbaugh for their recent accomplishments.

“They’re both doing great work and are learning the value of collaboration. We have benefitted greatly from the expertise of several other faculty members from Clarkson and other universities and we have a great relationship with our Navy sponsor and collaborators. The synergy between their projects allows everyone to learn from each other,” he said.

Illig was glad the fellowship provided both for his educational expenses and the first steps of his career.

“I’m really excited about this work area,” he said. “It’s great that I’ll have a guaranteed job to continue the kind of research I’m doing at the university.”

Linda Mullen, an electronics engineer with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, worked with both Illig and Rumbaugh during their summers at the Navy and praised them for their talent and dedication.

“I believe the education they received at Clarkson prepared them well for their work in my lab and is preparing them well for their future scientific career,” Mullen said.

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