Professor receives defense department grant

A PSU professor will be working closely with the Department of Defense for the next two years on a research project involving military-use sensors.

Suresh Singh, a professor in the Computer Science department, received a $163,270 grant last fall from the Department of Defense for his proposal. The grant is good for two years with the option to extend it for an additional three, but Singh does not anticipate taking more than the initial two.

The government agency posed a very vague question when they called for proposals. “It’s not like a consulting contract, where the government knows what they want to do and they just need someone to do it,” Singh said. “They presented a very fuzzy problem, and they were looking for new and innovative solutions.” Singh’s proposal was innovative enough to get selected. He was the only applicant from Portland State.

Singh’s research has to do with energy-efficient radio communications, although he describes his specific research as “very technical.” Singh is working on improving the efficiency of sensor networks.

A sensor network is a system of sensors laid out over a specific area to gather data. The sensors must be kept alive for a long time on only battery power, long enough to gather their data and transmit it back to a receiver. The Department of Defense wanted to make the sensors as energy-efficient as possible to get the most use out of them and reduce the cost of leaving dead sensors behind.

One application of a sensor network that Singh gives is a large chemical cloud, such as one that might be used in biological warfare. Ground troops would be very interested in knowing how fast and in which direction the cloud was traveling, and how fast it was dissipating so they would know when to put on gas masks. A sensor network could be used to measure that data, and a more efficient network would provide more information faster and hence provide a greater level of safety.

Singh will work on all levels of research, from the computations the sensors have to perform to designing the sensors themselves. Though he is doing research for the government, none of his work is classified; all of his studies are publishable.