NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Michael Turmon, 35, who developed revolutionary new methods for tracking bright spots as they move across the Sun, will receive the Presidential Early Career Award in a Washington, DC ceremony on October 24.

The award, established in 1996, is the highest honor given by the United States government to scientists and engineers as they begin their careers.

Turmon, a senior member of the Data Understanding Systems Group in the Exploration Systems Autonomy Section at JPL, earned the award for his computational work in solar physics. He created a program that recognizes patterns in the motions of bright solar spots, and translates them into user-friendly graphics. The program Turmon developed recognizes certain patterns in the different kinds of data that physicists acquire with many types of detection systems. It will be used on the Picard satellite, which is scheduled to launch in 2003, and now runs on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's Michelson Doppler Imager instrument. Turmon and his co-investigators have been processing data with the software since 1996.

The program grew out of Turmon's vision of a way to look at data in a condensed, less pixel-oriented way. "I talked to solar physicists and found they had a problem," Turmon said. "Then I realized that a lot of solar physicists were working on the same problem, and other scientists were working on similar problems." He said he would like to finish the design of this software, and work with scientists in other fields on this same type of pattern recognition.

Turmon's award will be presented at a daylong ceremony at NASA headquarters, Washington, D.C. He will give a presentation on his work to NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and other NASA officials, attend a luncheon given by Goldin and attend an awards ceremony in the White House Complex. Turmon is one of 59 honorees this year.

Turmon grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. He earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 1987, and a master's in electrical engineering in 1990 from Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. He received his Ph.D in 1995 at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and began at JPL in 1996. Turmon has won numerous awards, including the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, and has published papers on fault- tolerant computing, pattern recognition, solar physics, learning in neural networks, and spectrum estimation.

For more information, see JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages many missions for NASA.

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