What he does:
- Ryan Luley is an Associate Mathematician with the Surveillance Radar Technology Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate in Rome, NY. AFRL develops and integrates innovative technologies for the U.S. Air Force. Since joining AFRL in 2003, Ryan has worked primarily on in-house research of airborne and space-based radar system technology. One of his main tasks has been to conduct mathematical analyses of statistical radar data derived from detailed engineering models and simulations.
Math on the job:
- The nature of the research being done at AFRL affords Ryan the opportunity to exercise his background in many areas of mathematics including calculus, linear algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics and probability. Ryan says, “My educational background is somewhat unique to our branch. Most of my co-workers have electrical engineering degrees. I think I bring a different approach to some of our tasks, like evaluating the mathematical efficiency of radar simulation algorithms or using applied statistical methods to establish measures of performance.” Ryan was employed for a year and a half as a software engineer with Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge PA, but finds that his current job at AFRL allows more freedom to utilize both aspects of his combined major in math and computer science.
- Most of the projects Ryan works on use an in-house simulation program to study and analyze current or proposed radar systems. “One of the more interesting and more challenging projects I’ve worked on required a system performance analysis for space-based radar using computer simulation. In setting up the simulation, I had to convert platform geometry data from latitude/longitude/altitude to a Cartesian coordinate system. I was able to combine my math and computer science skills to develop a program to automatically calculate the appropriate conversions.”
- Ryan has a B.S. in mathematics and computer science from St. Lawrence University. He has found courses in linear algebra, statistics, and calculus to be the most useful. “A key skill that I needed for my job was an understanding of radar engineering. Remarkably, it draws quite a bit upon mathematical knowledge and skills that I already possessed. I have been able to learn many things on the job, or learn new ways to apply the things I’ve already learned.”
Advice for students:
- High school and college students interested in mathematics should understand that many professions require the knowledge of and use of mathematics in some sense. Math jobs are not limited to the science and technology fields. Explore different areas of math because you’ll learn how to solve problems in different ways. And, with almost everything being done with computers today, Ryan recommends at least some courses in computer science.