Wireless communications, radar sensing, medical imaging, radio astronomy. Each of these applications is essential to our everyday lives, and array signal processing, a key enabling technology that uses adaptively controlled sensors to detect and decode signals, allows them to exist.
This instrumental technology is also the focus of Dr. Yimin Daniel Zhang's highly esteemed research.
"It's a good balance between an algorithmic approach and work with a real-world application, so I think it is pretty fun and pretty useful and a really big research area," said Dr. Zhang, an electrical and computer engineering professor.
Dr. Zhang is a world-renowned expert in array processing recognized for his significant contributions to the research field. Most recently, he has been awarded competitive and prestigious grants from both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to develop novel array processing techniques.
"I feel really happy," Dr. Zhang said about being selected for the grants. "Getting funding is quite difficult."
Although both grants fall in the same research field, they call for different focuses and applications.
Dr. Zhang's project funded by the NSF grant strives to develop innovative sparse array design strategies and signal processing techniques to enhance next-generation wireless communications, enable high-resolution automotive radar imaging for autonomous driving, and support optimized reconfigurable intelligent surface-assisted applications.
His project funded by the AFOSR will align with the Air Force's mission and focus on unique challenges and characteristics specific to modern radar systems. He will aim to enable effective sparse array processing, resource-efficient waveform design, low-complexity array signal acquisition, and distributed network sensing in radar operations.
Still, both projects share a common goal to be "simple and effective": reduce the complexity of sensor arrays while improving performance in array signal processing.
"The significance of array processing in modern wireless communications and radar sensing has grown significantly," Dr. Zhang said. "This calls for the development of innovative array processing techniques that deliver higher performance while reducing the system complexity."
As a professor, another key aspect of these projects is the benefits they offer his students and research partners. Research grants foster collaboration between professors and students and provide for a richer learning experience. The additional funding can also widen the research team, allowing for more students to get involved.
"Keep running, get the funding, support the students: that's basically the endless responsibility of the faculty," Dr. Zhang said.
Prior to receiving the NSF and AFOSR grants, Dr. Zhang has been awarded multiple titles that recognize his influence in his research field. He has been named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), and the Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association (AAIA). His lab and students have also been recognized with various awards.
"We are already among the leaders in this area, but we're trying to get even more results still unknown to the community," Dr. Zhang said.