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NASA Scientist Is a Finalist for Service to America Medals
06.20.06
 
When you win NASA’s Invention of the Year, chances are you’re working on some pretty complex issues that anyone without a Ph.D. might have difficulty understanding.

That is certainly the case with Dr. Norden Huang, chief scientist for oceanography at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. But while the details of Dr. Huang’s work may be difficult to comprehend, anyone who sees the practical applications of his work can grasp its importance.

That is why the Partnership for Public Service has selected Dr. Huang as a finalist for its Service to America Medals. The awards pay tribute to America’s dedicated federal workforce, highlighting those who have made significant contributions to our country. Honorees are chosen based on their commitment and innovation as well as the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

Dr. Huang’s pioneering research led to the development of the Hilbert-Huang Transform (HHT) technology, a revolutionary, adaptive set of signal-analysis algorithms. Unlike precursor technologies, HHT provides an effective method for analyzing nonlinear and nonstationary signals (such as those occurring in natural phenomena) while improving the accuracy of linear and stationary signal analysis. In winning the 2003 NASA Government Invention of the Year award, HHT was cited as “one of the most important discoveries in the field of applied mathematics in NASA history.”

“It is an honor to be selected as a finalist for this award,” said Dr. Huang. “It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with so many great people—both inside and outside NASA—over the years. I am lucky to have found the HHT method so simple and yet versatile, and I am really pleased to have that work recognized.”

The importance of Dr. Huang’s research on HHT is well demonstrated by the benefits and versatility the technology offers to a wide variety of fields. As noted by Nona Cheeks, chief of Goddard’s Office of Technology Transfer, “HHT has been one of our most successful technology transfer projects. Hundreds of researchers from all over the world have downloaded the software and we have signed nearly a dozen partnerships for its use.”

For example, within NASA, Dr. Huang’s work with HHT is benefiting analysis of wing-flutter tests and the next generation of aircraft design. His research has also contributed to shuttle mission safety by using HHT to test the tiles that insulate the shuttle in space for the Shuttle Return to Flight Project. HHT also helps NASA look for planets and black holes.

HHT also is applicable outside of NASA. The technology might become a useful weapon in the war on terror. Federal investigative organizations are working to incorporate HHT into systems to analyze speech patterns and identify individuals in recordings in forensic examinations.

And the applications go on. The Navy is using HHT in its research to improve submarine design and to more easily identify and locate different types of submarines. The Federal Highway Administration is using HHT in a variety of research areas, including monitoring the vibration of bridges to determine how safe they are and highway design and engineering studies. According to FHWA, HHT has been a critical element for accurate data analysis.

For the medical field, HHT is helping researchers understand biomedical and physiological phenomena, which enables them to improve diagnoses and treatments, including drug design, sensors, devices, imaging, and tissue engineering. Specifically, Dr. Huang is involved in research at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, using HHT to better understand how a wide variety of diseases, including avian flu and Dengue Fever, are propagated. HHT is also being used at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) to help sharpen the diagnosis of sleep apnea and to detect patients with impaired blood flow regulation in the brain, a condition that may increase the risk for stroke.

“We are most grateful for Dr. Huang’s commitment to technology transfer and are thrilled that he’s being recognized for that commitment,” said Ms. Cheeks.

Looking at the list of ways that Dr. Huang’s work has the potential to improve the quality of life for all Americans and to meet critical national needs, there is one other thing that is easy for anyone to understand: Dr. Norden Huang is an extraordinary public servant.

“Dr. Huang has received many accolades for his innovative technology over the years, but it is great to see that he is also being recognized for his commitment to public service through his sharing of the HHT,” said Franco Einaudi, director of the Earth-Sun Exploration Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The final Service to America Medals will be awarded in September.

 
 
Ed Campion/Dale Hithon
Goddard Space Flight Center