By Spencer Elliott
As Ohio University students head into fall-quarter finals, one of the university's top engineering researchers is wrapping up his first few months in a select fellowship with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.
Frank Van Graas, Russ Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, will hold the fellowship through the Institute of Navigation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science through next summer. The 35-year-old fellowship program has 165 fellows this year -- the largest group ever.
One of the country's leading experts in the Global Positioning System, navigation, landing and avionics systems, Van Graas is studying policy processes and serving as a science and technology adviser to the Department of Homeland Security. He has been with Ohio University for 20 years and teaches courses in electronic navigation, including GPS, air traffic control and radar technology.
"He is one of the perfect candidates for the Department of Homeland Security," said Carl Andren, technical director with the Institute of Navigation. "He's going to bring back [to Ohio University] a lot of perspective on the problems on the science and technology side."
Van Graas chose to work with Homeland Security during his fellowship both to maximize the contributions of his expertise and to gain insight into what scientists and researchers can offer government and policy-makers.
"The fellowship will provide me with a unique opportunity to enhance my professional skills through study and research at a high level in the U.S. government environment," Van Graas said. "I'm very interested in understanding the inner workings of Washington, D.C., and the role of science and technology in the policy process."
Van Graas is credited with conducting some of the first GPS landing tests for commercial aircraft and has been a key technical adviser to the FAA. An Ohio University Presidential Research Scholar, he has authored or co-authored more than 100 scholarly publications and has lectured extensively in the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia for organizations such as the International Air Transport Association, NATO AGARD, Leeds University, Delft University of Technology, NASA centers and Air Force research laboratories.
A fellow of the Institute of Navigation, Van Graas served as the president of the organization in 1998-99. He has received the ION Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow and Johannes Kepler awards for sustained and significant contributions to satellite navigation. He also is director of the Consortium of Ohio Universities on Navigation and Timekeeping (COUNT) and a member of the Position Location and Navigation Symposium (PLANS) Executive Committee.
Colleen Carow contributed to this story.