As a mathematician, Michalopoulou devises algorithms to help U.S. Navy engineers detect submarines in shallow water. From her underwater (also known as acoustical) research, Michalopoulou can determine the location of submarines and whales, the earth's changing climate, even environmental contamination. To do this, Michalopoulou studies sound mathematically as it travels from an underwater source to a detector and processing equipment.
Grants totaling upwards of $1million from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have supported her work since 1997.
The multifaceted potential of Michalopoulou's research arises from ONR's interest in better techniques for detecting submarines in water up to several hundred meters deep. Typically, these are coastal environments that tend to be especially complex when it comes to identifying the source of a sound and pinpointing its location. The challenge is compounded by submarines which may penetrate the nation's territorial waters that are becoming much quieter, necessitating improved technology for detection and localization.
As Michalopoulou explains, many factors influence the propagation of sound in such environments. Among them are water temperature, the number of times sound waves bounce between the surface of the ocean and the earth below, the slope of the ocean floor and its subsurface geologic profile. It's also necessary to factor in the identifying characteristics of a sound source -- sea life or submarine -- and the noises of civilization emanating from shore and nearby surface vessels.
The raw material of Michalopoulou's oceanic insights is a growing body of data from sources, most notably ONR colleagu
Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology