College of Engineering at UMass Amherst Welcomes Three New Faculty Members

AMHERST, Mass. - Three new faculty members joined the College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts this fall: Stephen J. Frasier, Blair Perot, and Ian G. Harris. Joseph I. Goldstein, dean of the College of Engineering, made the announcement.

"I am pleased to have these highly qualified new faculty join the College. I know they will make important contributions to our teaching and research program," said Goldstein.

Stephen Frasier - Although he is new to the faculty, Stephen Frasier, electrical and computer engineering, has been a member of the University community since 1990, when he arrived on campus as a doctoral student in the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory (MIRSL). MIRSL creates sophisticated instruments that measure atmospheric, oceanographic, and terrestrial conditions, better enabling scientists to study the global environment and the effects of human activity on the Earth. Now an assistant professor, Frasier’s research interest is in designing sophisticated radars which monitor the ocean’s surface, creating high-resolution computer images from digital information essentially, long streams of numbers.

High-level oceanographic radars have several uses, Frasier says. The information gleaned regarding ocean waves and currents as well as sea-surface winds can help with meteorological forecasting and oceanographic research, and is also useful for those who interpret radar images on ships. The ability to measure currents in coastal regions from a remote site also helps in dealing with sediment transport and erosion problems, allowing engineers to predict where beach erosion will occur if, for instance, a jetty is constructed at a certain location. Frasier is also developing radar systems for measuring turbulence in the lower atmosphere.

Frasier, a native of New Jersey, did his undergraduate work at the University of Delaware, earned his Ph.D. from UMass in 1994, and later worked with MIRSL as a research fellow.

Blair Perot - When Blair Perot tells people he studies turbulence, right away he sets them straight: "When engineers talk about turbulence, we’re not talking about a bumpy airplane ride. For researchers, turbulence is when a fluid doesn’t flow smoothly." And, he adds, scientists consider both gases (such as air) and liquids to be fluids.

"Turbulence is not necessarily a bad thing," Perot says. "The more effectively fluids mix in your car’s engine, the better the fuel will burn." Perot grew up in Penllyn, Pa., and did his undergraduate work in engineering physics at Princeton University. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Now an assistant professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, he is studying the mysteries of fluid turbulence, "one of the last great unsolved problems of classical physics."

"Fluids behave in all sorts of interesting ways," says Perot. His main interest lies in doing computer simulations of turbulence - a form of virtual reality - and then simplifying the results into less complex mathematical models. "The computer gives us vast amounts of data that we couldn’t get any other way," he says. That information can include the temperature and pressure at any given point in the mixture, as well as the velocity and "movies" of the flowing fluid.

Perot’s research could be used in fields as diverse as weather forecasting and air travel, and for uses such as perfecting climate control in cars, improving combustion performance and reducing emissions, and in keeping high-performance computer chips cool to prevent them from overheating.

Ian Harris - A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Ian Harris specializes in the testing and diagnosis of the small computer chips known as VLSI systems, which Harris says are found in wristwatches, stereos, VCRs, microwave ovens, "and dozens of things you use every day."

But, he adds, every chip constructed has to be tested. "A single speck of dust can ruin the chip," Harris explains. But testing can be very expensive. So his approach is preventative: he designs computer chips so that once they are built, they’ll be easy totest. Part of his research focuses on chips with built-in self-tests. An engineer essentially tells a chip to do a series of mathematical problems - a thousand addition or multiplication problems, for instance - and if the results are off by even a digit, engineers will know that the chip is defective and cannot be used, he says.

Harris did his undergraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of California at San Diego. He teaches graduate-level courses in the testing and diagnosis of VLSI systems.