The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) recognized two outstanding faculty members for interdisciplinary scholarship with the presentation of the 2022 Richard W. Hamming Faculty Award for Interdisciplinary Achievement.
Dr. Bonnie Johnson, a senior lecturer in the NPS Department of Systems Engineering, and Dr. Marko Orescanin, an assistant professor in the NPS Department of Computer Science, were selected for their innovative accomplishments that support and enhance interdisciplinary activities at NPS.
Johnson, who has more than 25 years of leadership and experience in naval engineering research and development, focused on two areas for her research – automation and artificial intelligence (AI) for defense applications, and directed energy (DE) warfare studies. These broad topics involve interdisciplinary research for which she collaborated with various organizations across multiple service branches, as well as industry partners. Within NPS, Johnson leads projects involving faculty in the systems engineering, information sciences, and physics departments, as well as the Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation (MOVES) Institute.
“When I learned that I have been selected for the award, I was thrilled,” said Johnson. “I appreciate the outstanding mentoring and the many opportunities I have received. I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspirational leaders, researchers and thinkers.”
Johnson has advised more than 240 students who have graduated in their master’s degree research, and she is currently advising 40 students working on their graduate research who will graduate in 2022 or 2023. She and her students have demonstrated the use of automation and AI for tactical battle management aids for air and missile defense in the fleet. As part of her DE research, she has worked closely with faculty from MOVES and the physics and meteorology departments to develop a shipboard laser weapon modeling and simulation capability to support student research on shipboard power requirements for lasers, maritime atmospheric effects on lasers, methods for battle damage assessment, and integration designs for laser placement on ships and for coordination with existing kinetic weapons on ships.
Johnson has developed course work in directed energy and is the course coordinator for a set of four DE courses taught jointly by system engineering and physics. She has also developed course work in AI and supports an interdisciplinary NPS course for DOD personnel in the Joint AI Center (JAIC) taught by computer science and systems engineering. She has partnered with faculty in the NPS Energy Academic Group to conduct a broad study to achieve naval net-zero emissions by 2050 and to study the use of AI to detect cyber attacks from energy monitoring data.
“There are two things that really stick out as the ‘best’ part of my job,” Johnson noted. “First, the incredibly brilliant people I get to work with – our amazing faculty and ‘rock star’ students. Also, having the freedom to pursue research of interest – the Navy is rife with fascinating and ‘hard’ problems and I’m always able to find a way to study the topics that interest me.”
Orescanin leads an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students conducting cutting-edge research at the intersection of computer science, meteorology, oceanography, operations research, physics, systems engineering and undersea warfare. This team is advancing the Navy’s ability to obtain accurate weather forecasts – a critical capability for warfighting and for addressing other national security interests such as climate change. Since joining NPS in 2019, Orescanin has been involved in advising or co-advising 23 master’s degree students and two doctoral students.
“I was very humbled and honored,” said Orsecanin. “While I have not been at NPS for very long, I am deeply committed to its mission, and am very happy to expand my interdisciplinary research capabilities while educating and mentoring students.”
Orescanin’s work on uncertainty quantification is the most promising path toward integration of new artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) synthetic products into Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) operations. He teamed up with Assistant Professor Scott Powell of the meteorology department to form an ongoing collaboration with the Naval Research Laboratory’s Marine Meteorology Division in Monterey and the University of Maryland’s Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies to test out new synthetic products with the Navy Environmental Prediction System (NAVDAS).
Orescanin also led the establishment of an interdisciplinary research program on the application of AI/ML to undersea warfare in cooperation with the NPS’ Undersea Warfare Academic Group, Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, and the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. The AI/ML technology developed through this research is being transitioned into operational use as part of the Future Naval Capabilities program.
“Although I have only been at NPS two-and-a-half years, I am deeply impressed with both the academic strengths of the faculty, as well as the operational experience and technical expertise of the student warfighter,” noted Orescanin. “This enables a very productive interdisciplinary approach from the get-go, but with my own personal background in various scientific fields and commercial experience, we have been highly successful. This is particularly highlighted by taking examples from the classroom and research into the operational environment.”
The award, named after NPS professor emeritus Dr. Richard W. Hamming, highlights faculty members annually that demonstrate a commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship and exceptional teaching skills. Hamming's dedication to teaching and research are well known, specifically in the mathematics, computer science and telecommunications fields of study. Hamming taught at NPS as an adjunct Professor from 1976 to 1997.