Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine April 2017 - 45
of the pillars of the society. I am now serving on the GRSS [Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society] administrative committee.
I also was involved in several projects at JPL that involved the
Air Force and DARPA, and through those programs, I became
friends and colleagues of members of the IEEE Aerospace and
Electronics Systems Society and now regularly attend the IEEE
Radar Conference. I even chaired the conference in 2009. The
conferences and connections that IEEE has afforded over the
years have been invaluable in keeping me up to date with the
community, developing personal relationships with likeminded
people, and building technical relations that have led to projects
and changes in the course of existing projects. And it's just fun
to see everyone every year and trade stories about the trials and
tribulations of life and work. It's like an extended family.
Riccardo: I know that you also enjoy teaching and giving lectures. Can you tell us also something about this part of your scientific experience?
Paul: Coming from an academic background, with parents
who effectively defined success as academic success at a college
or university, I have always felt a compulsion to teach. However,
I find good teaching to be exceedingly challenging, as it requires
breadth and depth in any given subject, and because of the nature of work at JPL, it is often difficult to find the time to push
forward with new research, manage tasks, and develop highquality teaching and lecturing materials. Nonetheless, I make it
a priority to keep lecturing to encourage myself to invest the time
and continuously improve my understanding of the material and
my ability to communicate it. I have taught at Caltech in small,
quarter-long classes, trying to communicate electromagnetic and
radar principles to geologists and geophysicists. It is a great exercise in learning what works and doesn't work in communicating
outside one's field.
My goal in teaching or lecturing is to strip technology and
techniques down to their essence and try to convey the minimum
number of those essentials to make the point. Sophisticated techniques and concepts are usually based on simple building blocks
that, when understood in context, can help clarify the meaning
and importance for the student or listener. I myself find it hard to
follow most talks because they are too complicated and assume
the basics. Perhaps it is my limitation. But I try to take the opposite approach when possible. Occasionally I receive positive
Riccardo: You are presently the manager of the Radar Science
& Engineering Section of JPL. Can you tell us something about the
work you are doing on developing radar instruments for NASA's
Earth and planetary science missions?
Paul: Presently, I am dedicated to the NISAR [NASAISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar] mission as project scientist
(Figure 5). I was manager of the section from 2006 to 2012.
During that time, we raised the visibility of radar systems as
The NISAR mission is a novel synthetic aperture radar design, employing a 12-m-diameter reflector, 9-m boom, and compact L-band and S-band electronics on an octagonal structure, each employing digital beamforming techniques on receive to enable wide-swath, full-resolution polarimetric imaging.
NISAR will measure Earth's land and ice-covered surfaces comprehensively every 12 days over the mission to measure dynamic changes in land cover,
ice sheets and sea ice, and Earth's crust. The reflector, boom, radar structure, and L-band electronics are provided by NASA. The S-band electronics,
spacecraft, and launch vehicle are provided by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
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