Visiting Researchers Utilize CReSIS Expertise


By Bill Daehler & Jennifer Salva
Winter 2013

For the first half of 2013, the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets is hosting two visiting Ph.D. students from Denmark. Ulrik Nielsen and Christian Panton are visiting the University of Kansas to take advantage of the unique resources and expertise available at CReSIS. This will help each of these researchers to more fully develop Ph.D. dissertations in their respective fields. CReSIS’ European guests will be living Lawrence, Kansas through the end of the current semester. Each visitor will deliver an All-Hands lecture on their research to CReSIS staff, students and faculty.

Ulrik Nielsen

Ulrik Nielsen arrived at CReSIS at the University of Kansas in January of this year. He plans to stay until July while working toward his Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

Ulrik earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark. He was drawn to the engineering field because he is fascinated by “how you are able to, with mathematics, get something useful out of some rubbish.”

Later in his education, Ulrik became intrigued by signal processing, which remains the focus of his current studies. During his time at CReSIS he is working on a radar simulator that will enable researchers to predict what data a radar would collect if flown over a specific ice sheet.

“We’re trying to build up a model of the ice and different elements within the ice sheet from the surface, and from the bedrock underneath the ice, so we’re able to calculate how does this ice react when we interact with our radar signals with our electromagnetic waves,” Ulrik said.

Ulrik believes this project is a great opportunity to gain experience in his field while contributing to the ongoing improvement of CReSIS radar systems.

“Being at CReSIS is great because you’ve got this huge expertise in what you’re doing. CReSIS is one of the world-leading centers doing what they’re doing, so that’s really great,” he said.

Ulrik Nielsen

Photo 1: Ulrik Nielsen is a visiting Ph.D. student from the Technical University of Denmark.

After he earns his PhD, Ulrik would like to continue researching. Ultimately, he would like to have a position at the Technical University of Denmark, but a job within the industry interests him as well.

Although he is enjoying his time at the University of Kansas, Ulrik misses his friends and family, as well as the abundance of beautiful nature in Denmark.

Most of Ulrik’s free time is spent training for orienteering, a sport that combines navigational skills and cross-country running in unfamiliar terrain. He competes internationally with his team Copenhagen O (Copenhagen Orienteering) and finished 3rd in National Championships last year.

Christian Panton

Christian Panton is a Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen student visiting CReSIS at the University of Kansas to further his dissertation research on automated internal layer tracing.

“My project is related to the tracking of internal layers,” said Panton, who holds an MSc in e-Science from the University of Copenhagen. “The output of radar data exceeds the number of people that can look at it.”

Panton’s research interests focus on the overlapping fields of computer science and climate research. He is currently working on automated methods to detect internal layers generated from radar data. Not only is it time-consuming for humans do this, but it also introduces a greater possibility of human error. Panton is currently working on methods to solve these problems, and having access to CReSIS data and personnel are very helpful when approaching these problems.

"Our primary data source from Greenland is CReSIS data, so it’s very nice to get a little closer to the data being produced,” said Panton.

He said CReSIS data are extremely useful and easy to access from the CReSIS website, and they provide useful applications for researchers at the University of Copenhagen—where there is a great deal of focus on studies of ice-core data sets.

“The data files that we can download from the CReSIS website is of tremendous value to us,” said Panton. “But it is nice to be able to talk to the researchers here… it’s like getting to know your data products better.”

Christian Panton

Photo 2: Christian Panton is a visiting Ph.D. student from the University of Copenhagen.

Panton’s dissertation advisor is Dr. Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Professor at the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. Dr. Dahl-Jensen recently authored a major study with CReSIS researchers that appeared in Nature.

Panton arrived in Lawrence, Kansas in early 2013 with his wife and young daughter.

“And I’m turning 30 while I’m here,” said Panton.