John J. Leonard, assistant professor of ocean engineering, has been awarded the 1997 Doherty Professorship in Ocean Utilization from the MIT Sea Grant College Program.
Every year, the program selects one new faculty member for a supplemental award of $25,000 per year for two years.
Dr. Leonard's research will focus on dynamic underwater sonar data fusion-an important requirement in many marine robotic tasks. While state-of-the-art marine robot systems can produce vast amounts of data, the potential of such systems is limited by the difficulty of processing those data.
Enlisting the aid of graduate and undergraduate students, Dr. Leonard will investigate techniques for dynamic underwater sonar sensing. This will include experiments that combine sensing and motion control to imitate dolphin echolocation. Potential applications include autonomous underwater vehicle navigation and marine mapping, searching and salvage. Such innovations can not only improve access to the oceans, but also foster a greater understanding of the ocean ecosystem and our ability to preserve it.
In 1996, Paul Laibinis, assistant professor of chemical engineering, was awarded the two-year chair for his proposal to study chemical synthesis, the design of new chemicals and chemical structures.
The Doherty Professorship, endowed by the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation, encourages promising, non-tenured professors to undertake marine-related research that will lead to more innovative uses of the ocean's resources. The area of research may address any aspect of marine use and/or management, whether social, political, environmental or technological.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 15, 1997.