Cody Howard
School of Engineering

Recent KU engineering graduate wins international recognition for dissertation

Thu, 01/17/2019

LAWRENCE — A recent University of Kansas graduate has won international recognition for his dissertation proposing innovative advances to radar technology.

Patrick McCormick, an Olathe native who graduated in May 2018 with a doctorate in electrical engineering, won the Robert T. Hill Best Dissertation Award from the Aerospace & Electronic Systems Society, which is part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the largest technical organization in the world. The award comes with a $1,000 honorarium.

“It's an incredible honor to get this award,” said McCormick, who now works at the Sensors Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

McCormick worked in the KU Radar Systems & Remote Sensing Lab while he was a doctoral student, and he is no stranger to recognition for his work — he previously won third and first place in the Student Paper Contest at the 2016 and 2017 IEEE Radar Conferences, respectively. He was also the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science nominee for the School of Engineering’s Outstanding Doctoral Researcher award in 2018.

His nearly 400-page dissertation, “Design and Optimization of Physical Waveform-Diverse and Spatially Diverse Radar Emissions,” examines, in part, how to design practical radar waveforms in order to more precisely identify targets.

“Technology has come to the point where we can arbitrarily control the signals that are emitted, control aspects of the waveform that we couldn't before,” McCormick said. “As a result, you might be able to get a better image of your scene.”

Shannon Blunt, professor of electrical engineering & computer science, said McCormick’s work is a “game changer” that incorporates different disciplines in engineering. He added that McCormick had proved adept at mastering the theoretical concepts underlying radar, but also at working with radar hardware to test and advance those theories in a real-world setting.

“Beyond the very innovative theoretical work, wherever possible based on our hardware capabilities, he experimentally evaluated these developments to assess their practical attributes,” Blunt wrote, praising McCormick. “He has demonstrated an affinity for the fundamental mathematics while being equally comfortable operating sophisticated test equipment to collect real free-space measurements.”

Nominations for the dissertation award are typically made by a dissertation adviser and must be submitted with two additional endorsements from experts on the topic. McCormick is expected to officially receive the honor at the 2019 IEEE Radar Conference this spring in Boston.

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