President’s Keynote Highlights GTRI’s 75th Anniversary Technology Symposium

Published: April 30, 2009

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The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and its applied-research emphasis are vital to Georgia Tech's mission, and the current support and collaboration between GTRI and the university's academic units will continue to grow.

That was the core message delivered by Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson at the GTRI 75th Anniversary Technology Symposium on April 20.  The symposium, one of several observances of GTRI's 75th year of operation, featured presentations by GTRI researchers as well as a keynote address by the new president.

"As universities are increasingly called upon to become drivers of innovation and high-end economic development, the importance of the role of GTRI and organizations like it will continue to grow," Peterson told an audience at the Ferst Center for the Arts, as well as an Internet audience at GTRI's 13 U.S. labs and field offices.

The president added that he expects Georgia Tech to increasingly emphasize a full spectrum of research, from basic exploratory work to solving highly practical problems. These research demands will require increased integration of the relationship between GTRI and the broader mission of Georgia Tech. 

Some of that integration is already being achieved, Peterson indicated, pointing to the fact that GTRI is the largest campus employer of Georgia Tech students - a clearly instructive role. He also noted that GTRI researchers teach more than half of Georgia Tech's distance learning and professional education courses, and that 40 researchers have joint GTRI and academic faculty appointments.   

"Clearly," the president said, "it's important that we continue to expand the collaboration between GTRI and the academic units at Georgia Tech."

For one thing, he said, Georgia Tech must continue to seek out research opportunities that best benefit from that collaboration.  Such areas include energy, fuel cells and solar cells; water resources; high-performance computing and networking, and management training and education, among others.

More immediately, he added, academic and research faculty should work together to attract some of the $21.5 billion of research development funds estimated to be contained in the current federal stimulus package. Such funding could provide "tremendous opportunities for our faculty and the researchers of GTRI to collaborate in new areas and expand our ongoing research," Peterson said.

The 75th Anniversary Technology Symposium, moderated by GTRI chief scientist Dennis Folds, was also highlighted by several technical presentations. 

Sensors and Electromagnetic Applications Lab (SEAL) Director Bill Melvin offered a presentation on knowledge-based signal processing, which is part of GTRI's traditionally strong radar emphasis.  Principal research engineer Chris Bailey gave an overview of GTRI's accomplishments in technology related to graphical information systems, including the highly successful FalconView flight-planning software.

Fred Wright, chief engineer at GTRI's Electronic Systems Lab (ELSYS), talked about GTRI's work on airborne defensive systems, such as RF countermeasures and other technologies aimed at defeating enemy sensors.  And senior research engineer Jud Ready reviewed GTRI's recent materials research, which includes breakthroughs in nanomaterials. 

GTRI Director Stephen E. Cross - who also serves as a Georgia Tech vice president - offered comments on the tenures of several of his predecessors, including Maurice W. Long, Donald J. Grace, Edward K. Reedy and Richard H. Truly.  Admiral Truly had been expected to talk at the symposium but was waylaid by heavy snow in Colorado.  

Cross also spoke of GTRI's tradition of student research involvement. He noted that student involvement has deep roots that go back to at least the 1950s, before Georgia Tech began to offer doctoral degrees.

Among the most memorable symposium highlights was the final commendation given to GTRI by President Peterson.

"While I've only been here a short time," he said, "it's clear to me that GTRI is a wonderful resource for Georgia Tech -- and is one of the principal reasons that Georgia Tech enjoys the national and international respect that it has today."