Flying High With Ryan Kerekes: ECE Graduate Student


April 21, 2004

ECE graduate student Ryan Kerekes was flying high even before he won the Northrop Grumman Corporation Fellowship and honorary mention in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition. A pilot in his spare time, he enjoys researching Automatic Target Recognition (ATR), a technology that can be applied to surveillance aircraft. As a Northrop Grumman Fellow, Ryan has been awarded a year of research funding because his work is in line with the company's defense-related technology goals; he will also be eligible to complete a summer internship at one of the company's facilities. Originally from Oak Ridge, TN, Ryan tutors math, hopes to complete his Ph.D. in four or five years, and aspires to be an ECE professor and a flight instructor. Come and find out what soars inside the mind of an ECE student!

What was your undergraduate major?

Computer Engineering (University of Tennessee-Knoxville).

When you first started, how did you decide upon Engineering?

I enjoy math and computers, so I put the two together and came up with Computer Engineering.

What attracted you to ECE at CMU?

I heard from a friend that CMU has top-notch image processing research, so I applied for grad school. Then, I went to the ECE Open House and met a lot of very nice people, so I decided to come.

How did you prepare for your first year of graduate study in ECE?

Reading and rereading research papers was the best way to get comfortable [in a new research area], and some of the class material in my first semester (believe it or not!) helped me with my research. My favorite part of being an ECE grad student at CMU is being surrounded by brilliant people and getting caught up in their enthusiasm about research.

What are your research interests?

I am interested in aircraft systems, and my advisor, ECE Professor Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, is doing work in Automatic Target Recognition (ATR), a technology that is commonly used in aerial reconnaissance operations and air-to-ground combat. ATR involves applying recognition algorithms to images of a particular target or group of targets (such as ground vehicles) in an attempt to detect and identify the targets. My current work involves designing distortion-tolerant correlation filters for use in ATR and biometric recognition applications.

What classes have you taken so far?

I have taken 18-791, Digital Signal Processing [with Bhagavatula], 18-751, Applied Stochastic Processes [with Professor of ECE & BME José Moura], 18-753, Information Theory and Coding [with Assistant Professor of ECE Rohit Negi], and 18-798, Image and Video Processing [with Professor of ECE Tsuhan Chen].

What led you to apply for the NSF fellowship?

The fellowship is highly advocated at the summer programs held at the Oak Ridge National Lab, in which I took part. I heard that the award carries prestige, so I decided to apply.

What student organizations are you involved in?

Math tutoring. I was a tutor for several semesters.

What are your hobbies?

I like flying airplanes and shooting aerial photography. When I'm not spending time with my wife, I am usually reading books and magazines about flight. I've also been playing the bass with a church band in Sewickley.

Do you have any tips/pieces of advice or insight to other aspiring engineers?

Find a good hobby that keeps you excited about your field of engineering.

Have you been to any conferences or had any publications/presentations?

Yes, I went to The 6th Annual Conference on Quality Control by Artificial Vision in Gatlinburg, TN, in May 2003. I presented a paper on live animal tracking for CT scanners, a project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to be an ECE professor someday, but first I would like to gain experience in industry. I also want to be a part-time flight instructor.