GPS Innovator and Educator Honored as Cal State Fullerton’s Outstanding Professor for 2009

fullertonA noted educator and internationally recognized authority on satellite global positioning has been named Cal State Fullerton’s Outstanding Professor for 2009.

Mohinder Grewal, professor of electrical engineering and a faculty member since 1975, was stunned when faculty members and administrators led by CSUF President Milton A. Gordon walked into a meeting about satellite communications to present him with the award.

“Each year, one of the university’s 2,000 faculty is chosen as the best,” Gordon said as he walked over to stand next to the honoree. “Guess who it is this year? Professor Grewal!”

The two dozen students at the meeting loudly applauded as Gordon presented the professor with a crystal trophy engraved with a picture of a communications satellite and words declaring Grewal the 2008-09 Outstanding Professor Award honoree.

“I’m not going to read the list of his accomplishments,” said Gordon, brandishing several printed pages. “It’s two pages long!”

“Congratulations, Dr. Grewal. This award is probably 20 years overdue, but that makes it all the more special,” said Raman Unnikrishnan, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Grewal, who earned his doctorate at USC, enjoys an international reputation for contributions to the development of the space-based positioning, navigation and timing systems that lie at the heart of the increasingly common global positioning technology found in everything from smart phones to navigation systems. He holds two patents with a third patent application pending, all for algorithms related to global positioning and navigation.

Dorota Huizinga, former associate dean of ECS and now associate vice president for graduate studies and research, added: “I’m so happy for you. I have to tell you, whenever I hear my GPS talking to me, giving me directions, I think of you.”

“Your accomplishments are so wonderful, so impressive and you’re a wonderful teacher,” added last year’s Outstanding Professor Award recipient Stella Ting-Toomey, professor of human communication studies.

Scott Hewitt, chair of the Academic Senate and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said, “This honor is deserved, and your membership is a credit to the Academic Senate.”

“I’m surprised and stunned,” Grewal said, clearly struggling for control. “I have to give credit to my students, staff and colleagues. This would not have happened without their support all this time. Thank you, thank you.”

Recipients of the award must demonstrate a record of superlative teaching and distinguished scholarship on a national or international scale, have contributed to the stature of the university and to the California State University system and been of service to the campus and the community in ways related to their teaching.

Crediting the Support of Students and Peers

Grewal is quick to credit students and colleagues for his achievements.

“I have had so many good ones, and they made me think and delve. They asked questions I couldn’t answer, and in trying to find answers, I was sent in new directions. As they developed, they worked with me, and many of them now are successful at places like Raytheon and Boeing and other corporations, and as educators. I still work on projects with some of them.”

His students and colleagues are just as quick to return the favor.

Former students and alumni, like Laura Cheung (M.S. electrical engineering ’01), principal systems engineer for Raytheon Co. who has known Grewal for a decade as a student, a mentor and a colleague, was lavish in her praise: “As his student at Cal State Fullerton, I benefited greatly from Dr. Grewal’s instruction. His exemplary work in developing and teaching GPS and Kalman filtering classes has made CSUF one of just a few universities in North America to offer such high-quality and valuable GPS instruction.”

Satinder Singh (M.S. engineering-electrical ’87), president and chief executive officer of the California-based international company Future Computer Solutions Inc., said studying with Grewal changed his outlook. “I had the pleasure of being in three of his courses, and I found Dr. Grewal to be not only most interesting and engaging in his lecture but, more importantly, I found him inspiring. He ignited a deep interest in everything he touched and drew me into what were, for me, uncharted territories.

“Moreover, his mentorship did not terminate when I completed my studies and moved into the corporate world,” Singh said. ”He made himself readily available. I availed of it freely when I found myself up against a formidable problem. He continued to be generous with his guidance.”

Grewal’s positive relationship with his students has continued unabated over the years. Master’s in electrical engineering graduates from 2008, Malia Harris, chief engineer, and Kenny Dang, systems engineer, in the California division of Texas-based of DRS Sensors and Targeting Systems, co-authored a letter of recommendation for Grewal, citing his roles as teacher and mentor.

“Over the last three years, we have taken many courses with Dr. Grewal. We feel he surpasses most instructors in his passion for his work and his ability to engage others,” they noted. “His excitement for his work is contagious [and], he also is extremely supportive of the students around him and encourages them to challenge themselves.”

Phyllis Harn, an administrative support coordinator in the Electrical Engineering Department for more than two decades before retiring in 2007, sang the professor’s praises with obvious enthusiasm. “There are many great educators at CSUF. However, to be an Outstanding Professor, you need something special,” Harn said. ”I believe when you combine the professional accomplishments of Dr. Grewal with the utmost respect he has earned from everyone, you have that winning combination.”

“Dr. Grewal’s student evaluations are among the highest in the department; in fact they are always in the top two … He is the sole adviser of all new graduate students who apply to our program and does the initial evaluation and advising for every single applicant to our master’s in software engineering program,” noted Mostafa Shiva, chair and professor of electrical engineering. “Dr. Grewal has earned national and international recognition by his scholarly activities, research and publications. His performance is exceptional in all areas. He is a one-of-a-kind teacher who achieves the highest levels of excellence.”

Professional Accolades

Gerard Lachappelle, professor of geomatics engineering and chair of the Wireless Location Department at Shuclich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a two-decade industry veteran in navigation research and development, contends that Grewal’s contributions to the field of satellite and inertial navigation have made him “without question one of the academic leaders in this field worldwide.

“His book ‘Kalman Filtering Theory and Practice Using MATLAB’ has become one of the few standard books for students and research engineers in the field of navigation. His book ‘Global Positioning Systems, Inertial Navigation and Integration’ has equally been accepted in our community. And he has contributed massively to the training of professionals through regular and high-quality short courses,” said Lachappelle.

The Orange County Engineering Council honored Grewal last spring with the Excellence in Engineering Education Award, its highest award for an educator. The council acts as the umbrella organization for the technology-rich county, which includes dozens of engineering groups, corporations and educational institutions.

Roboticist Sam Rokni (B.S., M.S. electrical engineering ’05, ’07), now an engineering lecturer at Cal State Fullerton, said Grewal showed him connections to robotics he hadn’t yet considered. Incorporating GPS and space-based navigation, like those used for airplanes, package tracking and cell phones, was a big one. “He helped me see how it could apply to my field.”

GPS World named Grewal one of the “50+ Leaders to Watch” in the world in 2007 and 2008 for advancements in space-based positioning, navigation and timing systems. In addition to his two co-edited books, he has authored and co-authored dozens of articles and papers on navigation and global positioning and has given many presentations, lectures and seminars internationally.

Recognition at Commencement

As the 2008-09 Outstanding Professor Award recipient, Grewal will be recognized at the university’s May 22 Honors Convocation and will lead the faculty at the May 23 and 24 commencement ceremonies. He will receive a $4,000 cash award from the President’s Associates and will present a public lecture next spring.

Zvi Drezner, professor of information systems and decision sciences and the recipient of the 2005-06 Outstanding Professor Award, chaired the Outstanding Professor Selection Committee.

Grewal resides in Anaheim Hills and is currently on sabbatical pursuing research in inertial navigation.

[Source: Cal State Fullerton press release]

Professor Receives $1 Million NSF Grant for School Attendance Boundary Project

nsflogo“Salvatore Saporito, an associate professor of sociology at William & Mary, has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a new database of school attendance boundaries for the country’s largest school districts.

“The grant funds two years of work on the School Attendance Boundary Information System (SABINS). Saporito will build the SABINS database in conjunction with Stuart Hamilton, director of William & Mary’s Center for Geospatial Analysis, and Petra Noble and Rob Warren of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. With the assistance of William & Mary undergraduate student researchers, the team will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to map school attendance boundaries for 800 of the largest school districts nationwide. Elementary, middle and high school attendance boundaries delineate the geographic areas from which schools draw their students.”

Researchers Use High-tech Tools to Map Ocean Floor


“The scientists charting the world’s seafloors have come a long way from the days when sailors would head out on ships and tie a lead sinker to a line to measure ocean depths.

“The use of rapid-fire sonar technologies and computer programs developed at the University of New Hampshire has revolutionized seafloor mapping and drastically improved the accuracy of nautical charts.

“And while the science behind it is complicated, former UNH graduate student and research ship commander Shepard Smith said his days out on a hydrographic survey vessel provide the data necessary to create “road maps for the ocean.””

Fifth International Workshop on “Geographical Analysis, Urban Modeling, Spatial Statistics” in Fukuoka, Japan, 23-26 March 2010

(in conjunction with the 2010 International Conference on Computational Science and its Applications)

During the past decades the main problem of geographical analysis was the lack of spatial data availability. Today the wide diffusion of electronic devices containing geo-referenced information generates a great production of spatial data. Volunteered geographic information activities (e.g. Wikimapia, OpenStreetMap), public initiatives (e.g. Spatial Data Infrastructures, Geo-portals) and private projects (e.g. Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, etc.) produced an overabundance of spatial data which in many cases does not help the efficiency of decision processes. The increase of geographical data availability has not been fully coupled by an increase of knowledge to support spatial decisions. The inclusion of spatial simulation techniques in recent GIS software favoured the diffusion of these methods, but in several cases led to the mechanism of which buttons to press without having geography in mind. Spatial analytical techniques, geographical analyses and modelling methods are therefore required in order to analyse data and to facilitate the decision process at all levels. Old geographical issues can find an answer thanks to new methods and instruments, while new issues are developing, challenging the researchers for new solutions. This workshop aims at contributing to the development of new techniques and methods to improve the process of knowledge acquisition.

Mapping Culture: Novel Approach to Fusing Social Science and Geospatial Technology to Go Beyond Traditional Intelligence Analysis

“Human Terrain Analysis” Helps Commanders Visualize the Battlefield and Analysts Discover Hidden Patterns

As the American military continues to try to adjust to the post- 9/11 realities and transform its force, tactics, techniques, and procedures, a small company based in the Reston, VA technology belt has championed a novel approach to traditional intelligence analysis. Its combination of social science and geospatial technology is at the cornerstone of an analytical method the DoD is increasingly turned to that has been termed “Human Terrain Analysis.” SCIA’s mission is to map culture in areas of limited and sparse information to provide U.S. military commanders actionable intelligence analysis on the local socio-cultural dynamics of an area.

SCIA leverages commercial off-the-shelf geospatial technology and proprietary methods of social scientifically-based analysis to create a variety of maps depicting the geospatial patterns of behavior for groups and individuals of interest for the U.S. military. “Human terrain analysis is essentially the mapping of culture, discovering geospatial patterns of behavior we would not otherwise be aware of. The method enables analytic discoveries and provides the basis for true socio-cultural intelligence analysis of a region,” said Dr. Swen Johnson, who founded SCIA in 2005 to help provide the kind of intelligence product he sought while deployed as a US Army counterintelligence special agent in Kosovo. “Only recently has the government begun institutionalizing this kind of analysis. There were no jobs for ‘Human Terrain Analyst’ back in 2005 and I had to create the company in order to do the work that I saw we needed. It was a classic example how private industry can help the government and military see a way forward.”

The lack of basic knowledge on the geographic distribution and sociological characterization of ethnic, tribal, and religious groups has been identified as one of the U.S. military’s most pressing intelligence gaps. Typically, military intelligence has been narrowly concerned with either manhunts or kinetic strikes, and its intelligence apparatus has been designed for this kind of fight. As the military broadens its approach to include tribal engagement, stability operations, and support to sovereign governments, SCIA is helping transform the way intelligence data is collected and analyzed.

Johnson added: “SCIA’s approach to Human Terrain Analysis is about providing a niche type of intelligence analysis that helps our soldiers when they engage tribes and clans in dangerous locations. We go beyond simple demographics to study the micro-sociological environment from a geospatial perspective.”

The methods that SCIA has helped develop and champion have lead to invitations to teach and train others in both domestic and foreign markets. Foreign military allies of the US, various elements of the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence community, and the academic community have asked SCIA for assistance. “Currently, we only provide one course open to the public as a community service offering; the other courses we do are on an on-contract basis.” SCIA offers a three-day training seminar on Human Terrain Analysis through George Mason University’s Professional Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program once a year. The HTA Seminar introduces analysts to the tools and methods they need for socio-cultural and human terrain analysis, emphasizing social science concepts and methods, geospatial skills specific to human terrain analysis; subject matter expertise of particular cultures of interest; social network analytical software and concepts, and traditional all-source intelligence analytical methods.

While primarily focused on military objectives, SCIA is in the process of developing commercial applications for the strategy and technology. Johnson says the methods developed in the crisis environments Human Terrain Analysis was born in have obvious applications in the commercial world. For more information about how SCIA is changing the dynamic of military intelligence, please visit

[Source: SCIA press release]

United Nations Cartographic Sections Seeks GIS Intern

unThe United Nations Cartographic Section belongs to the Department of Field Support (DFS) within the UN Secretariat and is located in UNHQ in New York.  Its main task is to provide geographic and cartographic support to the UN Secretariat as well as to the different Peacekeeping Missions throughout the world. For the time period of 2-4 month, starting in November 2009 we are looking for a GIS Intern to support the Cartographic Section’s GIS activities with special regards to international boundaries and geo-database development.


  • Support of geo-database management
  • Data quality control and assurance
  • Research on international boundaries
  • Support of GIS application development


  • Student in Geography, Cartography, Geo-Informatics or similar
  • Very good knowledge of GIS (e.g. ArcGIS)
  • Good knowledge of remote sensing
  • Very good command of English

More information

Model: It’s Raining Rocks on Exoplanet


“An exoplanet discovered last February by the COROT space telescope is close enough to its star that its “day-face” is hot enough to melt rock. Theoretical models suggest the planet has a gaseous-rock atmosphere and boiling oceans on its surface.

“According to models by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis, COROT-7b’s atmosphere is made up of the ingredients of rocks and when “a front moves in,” pebbles condense out of the air and rain into lakes of molten lava below.

“The work, by Laura Schaefer, research assistant in the Planetary Chemistry Laboratory, and Bruce Fegley Jr., professor of earth and planetary sciences, appears in the Oct. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.”

Creating a New 3D Map of Space

…from Wired magazine

“A new project to create a 3D map of space so large that scientists can find a 500 million-light-year-size remnant from the early universe inside it began operation last month.

“The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey opened its eyes to the universe, taking in data from hundreds of galaxies and quasars in the constellation Aquarius, from its perch on the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. Eventually, it will image two million galaxies and quasars.”