CReSIS Student Receives Undergraduate Research Award


By Tyler Wieland
Winter 2014

Sam Buchanan, an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), was awarded the Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA) for the 2014 spring semester. The award, which has been around for over 20 years, provides $1,000 of support for independent, original research, scholarship, or creative work by undergraduates at the University of Kansas Lawrence Campus.

Sam Buchanan

Each awardee has a mentor in their field that fosters and assists the undergraduate researcher throughout the process – from proposal to project completion. UGRAs are designed to support students as independent investigators; however, their research can be associated with other faculty research projects, as is the case with Buchanan.

Buchanan, an undergraduate in electrical engineering, will be working with Associate Professor John Paden, a CReSIS scientist, to complete his project.

“I think he has done a fantastic job on each project and really gets into what he is doing, so I’m very excited to be his mentor on this project,” said Paden.

The project will involve the implementation of the digital signal processing section of CReSIS' Active Target Multistatic Receiver (ATMR) system, which will be deployed in the field this August, according to Buchanan.

The research awards are funded by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Research and Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Provost. Proposals were selected based on the merit of the applicant's proposal, their academic record, and a recommendation from a faculty member familiar with the proposed project.

Buchanan received this feedback after being awarded the UGRA, “The proposal is a great project, very relevant to scientific research and society’s needs. The applicant is very qualified to complete the project and has strong support from the faculty sponsor.”

Buchanan said, “Getting the award feels great. I think this project is both interesting on an academic level and relevant to society. I'm happy that I'm able to get the word out about the Center's research through this award.”

ATMR System

The ATMR system, which Buchanan will be working on, will be able to receive and detect an incoming radar signal and store it to disk, then transmit an identical radar signal back to the source.

According to Buchanan, the radar signal that the ATMR stores to a disk gives a precise characterization of the signals that the transmitters and receivers attached to the aircraft are sending out and receiving, and sometimes these signals don’t have 100% ideal characteristics.

Basically, the ATMR will allow researchers to precisely calibrate the radar transmitters and receivers. These calibrations will then lead to a more accurate collection of ice thickness data.

Ultimately, this will allow scientists to generate echograms with a much finer resolution – permitting researchers to model ice sheet change much more accurately.

Buchanan’s Contribution

The digital signal processing section, which will be Buchanan’s contribution to the overall project, consists mostly of programming tasks; he will be ensuring that the ATMR properly detects incoming radar signals and stores them.

ATMR system

Paden said, “He has a strong analytical background from his electrical engineering degree and lots of programming experience from working in our group, so he has all the right tools to do this project.”

Other researchers who will be working on the system include two other students at CReSIS, Haiji Wang and Robby Willer. All the students will be working closely with John Paden, Zongbo Wang, and Fernando Rodriguez-Morales at CReSIS, Buchanan said.

“We'll have access to excellent support resources as we complete the project,” said Buchanan.

According to Buchanan, Haiji and Robby will work on separate tasks, but they will end up integrating everything together in April and May to produce a complete system.

Paden said these radar systems can then be used with a variety of different hardware platforms for the Center and other researchers.

Buchanan said, “I'm very excited to progress in my research over the course of this semester and eventually prepare a paper for submission to an IEEE conference. That will certainly be a first for me.”

He plans to publicize the research project by presenting at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in April and submitting a conference paper to the annual IEEE Radar Conference.