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Lermusiaux chosen for Doherty Professorship

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The MIT Sea Grant College Program has selected Pierre Lermusiaux, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering's Center for Ocean Engineering, as the recipient of the 2009 Doherty Professorship in Ocean Utilization. He will receive a supplemental award of $25,000 per year for two years.

Lermusiaux's interdisciplinary research focuses on physical ocean dynamics and methods of estimating and assimilating data. His research group creates and utilizes the fundamental mathematical models and computational schemes for ocean prediction, for dynamical diagnostics, optimization and control of autonomous ocean observation systems, and for data assimilation and data-model comparisons. The PhD students in his group develop novel adaptive sampling methodologies, derive new prognostic equations for stochastic ocean fields of large dimensions, incubate the next generation of computational ocean models, and explore fundamental biogeochemical fluid dynamics in straits.

Lermusiaux's Doherty-funded project aims to advance the concept of adaptive sampling using swarms of smart autonomous underwater vehicles. The project combines concepts from physical-biogeochemical ocean dynamics and modeling; dynamical system theory; uncertainty prediction; decision-making under uncertainty; artificial intelligence; bio-inspired behaviors with the emergence of global properties; and distributed computing.

The two-year project will be theoretical, developing new schemes and methods with case studies in idealized and more-realistic situations. These new smart technologies can be applied in a variety of fields including ocean energy; ecosystem-based management; coastal monitoring, undersea surveillance, homeland security and harbor protection; and multi-scale climate monitoring and prediction.

In 2008, the two-year Doherty was awarded to Franz Hover, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Eric Alm, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. Hover's Doherty-funded research focuses on developing and demonstrating a manipulation system for unknown environments with autonomous underwater vehicles. Alm is conducting a multidisciplinary study of genetic diversity in ocean bacteria.

Endowed by the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation, the Doherty Fellowship encourages promising, nontenured professors to undertake marine-related research that will further innovative uses of the ocean's resources. The area of research may address any aspect of marine use and/or management, whether social, political, environmental or technological.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 25, 2009 (download PDF).

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