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Alumnus Pramod Varshney receives Judith A. Resnik Award

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By Tom Moone, ECE ILLINOIS
June 29, 2012

  • ECE alumnus Pramod Varshney is the recipient of the 2012 IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award.
  • The award recognizes outstanding contributions to space engineering.
  • Varshney is most known for his groundbreaking work on distributed detection theory and data fusion methods.

Pramod Varshney
Pramod Varshney

ECE alumnus Pramod Varshney (BSEE ’72, MSEE ’74, PhD ’76) will receive the 2012 IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award at the upcoming IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in July. The award recognizes Varshney, a distinguished professor at Syracuse University, for contributions to and leadership in the theory and practice of multisensor data fusion for aerospace and bioengineering applications. His pioneering and continuing achievements in engineering include distributed detection techniques and data fusion methods that have fueled the success of wireless sensor networks for aerospace, defense and biomedical applications.

The award, named in honor of IEEE member and NASA Mission Specialist Judith Resnik of the Space Shuttle Challenger, acknowledges outstanding contributions to space engineering. It is sponsored jointly by the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems, IEEE Control Systems, and IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Societies, and presented each year to an engineer whose work has been essential and made lasting impact in these fields.

IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award
IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award

Varshney is most known for his groundbreaking work on distributed detection theory and data fusion methods critical to the proliferation of multisensor networks for the aerospace industry and other applications. Data fusion involves combining data from multiple sources, in this case sensors, into more relevant and useful information than data collected from an individual source.

“Our main work early on was to extend conventional theory, such as detection theory and estimation theory, going from single sensor or a single radar to multiple sensors or multiple radars,” said Varshney.

The resulting distributed methods provide a means of target detection using a cooperative team of multiple sensors, which are far more effective than using a single radar or sonar element. Varshney’s work is the foundation for many U.S. Department of Defense wireless sensor network systems, with practical applications in monitoring the condition of air and space vehicles, operation of unmanned aerial vehicles, and biomedical imaging.

In fact, Varshney literally wrote the book on distributed detection theory. His 1997 Distributed Detection and Data Fusion (Springer-Verlag) was the first book published on the subject, and is still cited extensively. Varshney’s methods overcame the challenges distributed sensing and the bandwidth constraints for communication of sensor information. Among his many successful endeavors, Varshney tackled fault detection in large dynamic multi-sensor systems in collaboration with NASA in 2008 and 2009. The result was a vehicle health monitoring system that will be important to future air and space vehicles. His contributions to multisensor data fusion will also play a key role in detecting and tracking space debris.

Varshney’s accomplishments also include processing images obtained from air- and space-based sensors. He developed methods for mutual information-based image registration, feature extraction and classification using hyperspectral data. He extended his methods to the biomedical field with a stochastic resonance approach to enhance mammogram images and improve early breast cancer detection. Varshney’s more recent research involves statistical methods for detecting early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Varshney credits the University of Illinois for providing the foundation on which be built his career success. “I really had a good experience at Illinois as a student. I benefitted a lot,” he said. “I got a first-rate education there. That really did help me.”

An IEEE Fellow and founding member of the International Society for Information Fusion, Varshney’s prior honors include the IEEE Third Millennium Medal (2000) and Syracuse University’s Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement (2000). He directs the Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering (CASE) at Syracuse University.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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