Alum Fumin Zhang wins ONR Young Investigator Program award

Alumnus Fumin Zhang has won a Young Investigator Program (YIP) grant from the Office of Naval Research, one of only 17 awarded nationwide. The YIP invests in academic scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for creative study.

Zhang earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland in 2004. He was advised by Professor P.S. Krishnaprasad (ECE/ISR).

Zhang's research will be on “Generic Environment Models (GEMs) for Agile Marine Autonomy.” He will establish a fundamental research program to lay out the theoretical foundation for agile marine autonomy, the capability of unmanned systems to take fast responses to changes in a marine environment. This will require rapid data fusion by all agents to create situation awareness and facilitate decision-making, so that unmanned systems will acquire intelligent maneuverability for in future scientific and naval applications.

Since 2007 Zhang has been an assistant professor of systems and controls in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Previously, he worked as a lecturer and postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University.

His research interests lie in mobile sensor networks that use limited sensing resources and limited power to sense environmental changes in the atmosphere and oceans. He has developed motion planning algorithms and motion control laws for underwater robots to explore and sample ocean fields that have been implemented and tested on underwater gliders. Zhang also is interested in cyber-physical systems that integrate control theory, embedded systems and distributed sensing algorithms with real world applications that are constrained by environmental disturbances and limited power.

Last fall, Zhang won an NSF CAREER Award for Feasibility of Control Tasks---Towards Control-Computing-Power Co-Design.

About GEMS
A GEM is a four-dimensional environment model for navigating fast mobile agents with sensing capabilities. It does not rely on a specific region or a specific ocean process, can have higher resolution in both space and time, and can be computed much faster than classical ocean models. In combination with existing models, GEMs enable navigation of mobile agents in the marine environment in real time.

GEMs for agile marine autonomy reflect a tight integration of research in robotics/control with research in physical oceanography. On one hand, it may significantly extend the capabilities of existing ocean modeling theory to better serve operations of unmanned systems. On the other hand, it may results in novel map-making methods and navigation methods for four-dimensional marine processes that have not been achieved in the field of robotics. Therefore, the proposed research program may create new opportunities to advance both oceanography and robotics/control engineering research. This research program will also provide multi-disciplinary training to graduate and undergraduate students who will be the future task-force in marine technology.

| Read the ONR press release |

Published April 7, 2010