South Africa (Fulbright S&T awardee 2011)
Etienne Ackermann is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Computational and Applied Mathematics department at Rice University. With the support of the 2011 International Fulbright Science & Technology Award, he is focusing on scientific computing and inverse problem theory.
Scientific computing is concerned with the development of mathematical models and quantitative analysis techniques which are then used (by means of computer simulation) to analyze and solve scientific problems. Computer simulation provides the capability to study and enter fields which are inaccessible to traditional scientific experimentation and methods of inquiry, and is now commonly considered a third mode of science. By studying the underlying mathematics of engineering problems, Etienne plans to develop efficient solutions to several challenging real-world problems such as the near real-time determination of the ionospheric electron distribution from space-borne atmospheric observations (an inverse problem), which can then be used to improve the accuracy of navigation systems such as GPS.
A native of South Africa, Etienne received a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in electronic engineering; both from the University of Pretoria. He spent one semester as an undergraduate exchange student at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. His previous research experience comprised the development of an automatic facial detection and recognition system for security surveillance applications, the development of ionospheric total electron content models using Gaussian processes, and the statistical classification of coarse-resolution satellite images for environmental monitoring.