Chandra honored for achievements in geoscience and remote sensing

Professor Chandra with weather radar

Professor V. “Chandra” Chandrasekar with a research radar. 

Colorado State University Professor V. “Chandra” Chandrasekar is a trailblazer in geoscience and remote sensing – a field that uses data from satellites to advance the understanding of the land, oceans, atmosphere and space.

The University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been honored by the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society with its Distinguished Achievement Award, recognizing more than three decades of “outstanding contributions that have led to the affirmation of weather-radar dual-polarization technology and small radar networks in meteorology.”

Chandra received the award at the society’s flagship international symposium in Yokohama, Japan, an event attended by the emperor and empress of Japan and president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

“This well-deserved honor underscores Professor Chandra’s leadership role and speaks to the enormity of his contributions over the course of his career,” said Department of Atmospheric Science Professor Steven Rutledge, Chandra’s longtime collaborator at the CSU-CHILL National Radar Facility and on the development of the SEA-POL radar, the most advanced shipborne radar the world has ever seen.

A stellar CSU career

Chandra arrived at CSU 35 years ago as a graduate student in electrical engineering. “I came here to start my research on polarimetric radars, and then I just grew with the field,” he said. “I was very lucky.”

While Chandra calls it luck, his achievements tell a different story. After earning his master’s degree and Ph.D. from CSU, Chandra built a thriving research program from the ground up and rose through the ranks to become a University Distinguished Professor – the university’s highest distinction for faculty.

“I learned early in my career to focus my research on the end-user – the impact,” Chandra said. His life’s work laid the foundation for pervasive technologies that are protecting lives and improving weather forecasting all over the world, from small satellites that peer inside hurricanes to radar networks that detect tornadoes earlier and help scientists understand the most extreme weather on earth.

Recognized by professional societies in both science and engineering, Chandra is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, IEEE, International Union of Radio Science, and CSU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. In 2016, he was knighted by the government of Finland for his technical contributions.

Inspiring the next generation

In reflecting on his career, Chandra said he is most proud of the students he has advised and the postdocs and scientists he has mentored, and their career accomplishments.

“You create a scholar for life,” he said.

Electrical engineering alumnus Jason Fritz, who earned his Ph.D. in 2010 and was the recipient of a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, said he is grateful for Chandra’s mentorship as his advisor.

“Professor Chandra made a concerted effort to produce independent researchers, not just replications of himself,” said Fritz, principal engineer for BlackHorse Solutions. “He was extremely helpful in teaching me how to approach difficult research problems from basic engineering principles. I try to pass those same principles on to my younger co-workers.”

Chandra’s research highlights include serving as the director of the CSU-CHILL National Radar Facility, one of the most advanced meteorological radar systems in the world, and as co-principal investigator for SEA-POL, the nation’s first ocean-going polarimetric radar. He also is the research  director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere.

“I want people to know that research is fun,” Chandra said. “Give it some time and it will reward you. Because when it works, either the idea or the instrument, it’s so cool.”

Chandra receiving award

Chandra receives the Distinguished Achievement Award during the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society symposium in Japan.