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Penny Axelrad's Compass Points

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Engineering Specialties
Applications of GPS for aircraft, spacecraft, and remote sensing. She focuses mainly on the algorithms but has also dabbled in some hardware and software over the years.

Her Compass Points
• Family — husband and children, parents, and sister
• The University of Colorado — great colleagues, especially Kristine Larson, Dennis Akos, and Scott Palo, outstanding students, wonderful opportunities
• Research and teaching
• Boulder, Colorado — the best possible place to live

Favorite Equation
The Kalman Filter Gain Equation distributes how you use a new measurement in adjusting your state estimate based on a balance between how well you already know the answer, how accurate the measurement is, and the geometrical relationship between the measurement and the states to be estimated.
K = P H’ (H P H’ + R) ^-1

First Fell In Love With GNSS
1986, as a co-op student from MIT working in the system engineering group of the Hughes Space and Communications Division.

Knew GNSS Had Arrived When . . .
“Two winters ago, I was sitting on a chairlift with two 10-year-olds and the kids were comparing notes on whose dad had a cooler GPS system in his car.”

First Significant GNSS Achievement
Investigated the application of GPS to onboard orbit determination for Gravity Probe B for autonomous orbit insertion. (Her approach was not used operationally, but it was interesting.)

Engineering Mentors
Richard Battin, John Kelly, Brad Parkinson, Quyen Hua, Bob Rennard, George Born.

Influences of Engineering Outside Work
“Engineering has a tremendous impact on how I think, not only in my research, but also in my teaching and in how I interact with people. The study of engineering teaches you to think clearly. You learn how to break down complex problems into digestible pieces, to sanity-check your answers, to think of several ways to approach things. It helps me be able to sort things out and understand things in life in general. I think it gives you confidence that you can figure things out.”

Popular Notion About GNSS That Most Annoys

“The suspicion that the U.S. will turn off or disrupt GPS to cause trouble for other countries.”

Favorite Non-GNSS Activities
Spending time with her family — especially skiing.

What’s Next

Understanding the fundamental impacts of the Internet on how students — and people in general — learn, think, and innovate.

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