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Dr. Zhijun Qiao earns advanced research award from Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Posted: 06/16/2010
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The University of Texas-Pan American has received a Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program (NHARP) award for $120,600 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The award went to Dr. Zhijun "George" Qiao, UTPA mathematics professor, whose research proposal in applied mathematics was ranked second out of the eight funded math proposals in all Texas universities and research institutions. His award was among the more than $15 million awarded to 112 proposals and the only one from NHARP received by UTPA this year.

- Dr. Zhijun "George" Qiao
"We are very proud that Dr. Qiao received a Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program award. Only about 4 percent of the more than 2,300 submitted proposals received funding from this highly competitive peer-reviewed grant program. Dr. Qiao's award reflects the quality and importance of the research at UTPA," said Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, vice provost for Research and Sponsored Projects.

Qiao's proposal titled "Fourier Integral Operation and its Application in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Image Restoration," will help fund basic research to develop a math tool to better identify and locate moving targets based on radar and environmental data.

Synthetic aperture radar, used to detect the location of targets both moving and stationary in the air and on the ground, is a form of radar in which multiple radar images are processed to yield higher-resolution images than would be possible by conventional means. This technique typically results in extremely high-resolution radar images of, for example, ground features from an airplane.

"Qiao's work is basic science that helps use data points to identify moving objects in real time. His discoveries will improve the capability to identify and track movement," Lawrence-Fowler said.

Moving target identification has important applications, both military and commercial, such as missile identification, aircraft detection, homeland security issues, including border guard and control, and ground moving targets, such as vehicles and ships, Qiao said.

"This math tool will help military and commercial businesses to figure out an accurate location of targets," he said.

Qiao's co-principal investigator is Dr. Yue Liu, associate professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington, who was awarded $24,100. One postdoctoral researcher, two graduate and two undergraduate students will also participate with faculty on the project's research.

An author of two books and more than 90 articles published in refereed national and international journals, Qiao is also founder and current editor-in-chief of the Pacific Journal of Applied Mathematics. In 2009, Qiao was the recipient of an unclassified research grant of $550,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The DoD project, which includes both research and education involving student research training, is being conducted by Qiao, Dr. Junfei Li, UTPA associate professor of electrical engineering, and Dr. Guoping Zhang, assistant professor of math at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md. It also addresses air and ground moving target detection and image processing using multi-frequency bi-static radar and SAR procedure. Qiao said the three-year DoD grant is serving to strengthen the research infrastructure in applied mathematics and radar signal and image processing at UTPA and supports UTPA's Undergraduate Research Initiative research project on partial differential equations and SAR image analysis. Four graduate students are working on this project with faculty.

The Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program is a peer-reviewed, competitive grant program created in 1987 by the 70th Texas Legislature to encourage and provide support to basic research conducted by faculty Texas higher education institutions. The grants support projects that contribute to the knowledge base needed for innovation and help attract and retain the best undergraduate and graduate students and researchers to Texas colleges and universities.