University News

College of Engineering Launches Paros Center Under the Leadership of Michael Zink and Brenda Philips

Zink will also become the first Paros Professor of Geophysical Sensing Systems; Philips will serve as the inaugural Paros Center Research Professor

Michael Zink, professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been appointed Paros Professor of Geophysical Sensing Systems in the College of Engineering, and research professor Brenda Philips has been appointed to a five-year term as Paros Center Research Professor. With Zinc, Philips will become co-director of the newly launched Paros Center for Atmospheric Research (PCAR), which will focus on translating research into improved hazardous weather predictions, alert systems and policies that will save lives.

Michael Zink
UMass Amherst professor Michael Zink

Zink and Phillips previously held the roles of co-directors of the graduated National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA).

The Paros professorship, approved by the UMass Board of Trustees at its Sept. 22 meeting, supports an outstanding faculty member in geophysical sensing systems—systems that monitor and analyze the physical properties and processes of the earth, its atmosphere, and surrounding space environment.

Zink works in the fields of sensor and distribution networks for high bandwidth data, with research interests that include wide-area multimedia distribution for wired and wireless environments, cyber physical systems, cloud computing, and future internet architecture.

brenda philips
UMass Amherst professor Brenda Philips

“IoT/sensor networks in combination with high-performance computing have made a significant impact on the improvement of weather forecasts and warnings,” notes Zink. “Orchestrating such a significant set of resources in an efficient and effective manner is one of our major research goals.”

In early 2022, the College of Engineering received a transformative $10 million gift from Jerome ’60 and Linda Paros. Aimed at accelerating cutting-edge work in atmospheric research and hazard mitigation, the gift provides discretionary support for the Paros Center for Atmospheric Research, funding for graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships and establishes a future Paros Chair of Atmospheric Research and Hazard Mitigation.

“With expertise in distributed cyber-physical systems and sensor networks, Professor Zink is an outstanding choice for this professorship,” says Sanjay Raman, dean of engineering.

CASA—a partnership among academia, industry and government—was built on the transforming paradigm of distributed collaborative adaptive sensing (DCAS) networks, which coordinate the overlapping scanning information from multiple inexpensive, low-power and short-range radars.

Expanding upon UMass Amherst’s leadership in the field, the Paros Center for Atmospheric Research enables the broadening of CASA’s original mission and enhances the university’s capability to translate research in areas such as radar systems, the internet of things, data science and artificial intelligence and unoccupied aerial vehicles into real-world hazard mitigation systems.

“We are very grateful for this gift that will allow us to expand the scope of our program,” Philips says. “It’s especially important given the impacts of climate change on the intensity and frequency of extreme weather.”

Philips conducts interdisciplinary hazards and disaster research. Her focus is on creating next-generation warning systems that tightly integrate the human/social dimensions and the technical dimensions. She has been PI of several large NSF grants resulting in the creation of a smart, hyperlocal warning system for public safety and the emerging unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry. She has presented her research at several National Academies and National Research Council meetings.

Zink leads several major NSF-funded research projects in new cloud computing, and is a principal investigator of the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC) Alliance. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). Zink earned his doctoral degree in 2003 from Darmstadt University of Technology.

Jerome Paros holds more than 50 patents and is the founder, president and chairman of Paroscientific Inc., Quartz Seismic Sensors Inc., and related companies based in Redmond, Wash. He holds a BS in physics from UMass Amherst and a graduate degree in physics from Columbia University. The University of Massachusetts honored him with a distinguished achievement award in 2011 and an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2022.