Physics Alumnus Improves Radar Systems

Photo courtesy of Derek Hullinger

“Physics” and “easier to understand” aren’t phrases that ordinarily appear together, but that’s what BYU alumnus Derek Hullinger is trying to accomplish.

“I love to make things better,” Hullinger said. “I like saying, ‘We could make that just a little bit faster by doing this,’ or ‘We could make it a little bit easier to understand by doing this.’”

Hullinger’s interest in physics started before he was a student at BYU.

“When I was in high school, I took a physics class and absolutely loved it,” Hullinger said. “I liked math before that, but I loved how physics showed me how I could use math to explain things that you see in the world around you.”

That initial interest pushed Hullinger (BS ‘97 Physics, MS ’00 Physics, Brigham Young University; PhD ’05 Physics, University of Maryland) to pursue three degrees and eventually a career in physics.

Shortly after receiving his bachelor’s in physics, Hullinger worked with NASA on the Swift Burst Alert Telescope project. The telescope’s purpose was to study gamma ray bursts, or powerful explosions of stars in distant galaxies.

“My job was to come up with a mathematical model to describe the relationship between the energy of each gamma-ray photon that is absorbed by the telescope’s detectors and the electrical signal produced by the detectors,” Hullinger said.

Hullinger currently works as a systems engineer at IMSAR. IMSAR develops and manufactures Synthetic Aperture Radars (SAR), a radar system that can produce detailed images of large areas.

“Imagine this radar sitting in the sky, 3,000 feet up,” Hullinger said. “It sends out a pulse of microwave radiation, and the pulse bounces off anything it comes in contact with. The ‘echoes’ come back to the radar and tell it how far away different objects are.”

Hullinger’s work at IMSAR involves developing new types of radar systems and improving those that have already been developed.

“Our company has found a way to make these devices incredibly small, incredibly low power, and incredibly cost effective,” Hullinger said. “They can be flown on small, unmanned vehicles, which is a first for synthetic aperture radar.”

Hullinger said his time at BYU prepared him for the work he’s done, particularly by teaching him how to learn.

“When I first began working at IMSAR, I didn’t know anything about radar systems,” Hullinger said. “But I did know how to learn about radar systems.”

More Information on This Article

Article Source/Further Information

News and Events

Image for Mystery of Haumea's Formation Solved
BYU Physics and Astronomy student Benjamin Proudfoot recently published research in the prestigious journal Nature Communications that solves the mystery of the icy dwarf planet Haumea's formation.
Image for Dr. John Colton: Table Tennis Champion
Dr. John Colton won the 2022 BYU intramural table tennis tournament
Image for Debunking acoustics myths around the Saturn V
When the Saturn V rocket propelled man to the moon in July 1969, the blast from the rocket’s engines was tremendous. Marked by a dazzling display of flames and deafening noise, the monumental event gave rise to widespread claims that the acoustic force of the rocket melted concrete and ignited grass fires miles away. New research from BYU debunks this common myth.
Image for Dr. Aleksandr Mosenkov, new Astronomy faculty
Dr. Aleksandr Mosenkov, new faculty, looks forward to receiving some of the first data from the James Webb Space Telescope to study galaxy formation
Image for BYU Acoustics Records Artemis Launch
A group of BYU students and professors gathered acoustical recordings of at the world’s most powerful rocket launch.
Image for Kent Gee Recognized by AIAA
Kent Gee is selected as Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in their class of 2023
Image for West Mountain Observatory contributes to understand distant galaxy
BYU’s West Mountain Observatory was one of 37 ground-based telescopes throughout the world monitoring the active galaxy that is roughly 1 billion light years away.
Image for Dr. Tim Leishman retires from BYU
Dr. Leishman's time at BYU was filled with great teaching and profound mentoring