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Advanced Studies Institute 2016 Program

The 2016 Advanced Studies Institute program consisted of the following four projects. Each project had one mentor and three students. Below are the project and team descriptions as well as a selection the guest lectures.


  • Institute Director
  • Charles Farrar
  • (505) 665-0860
  • Email
  • Executive Administrator
  • Ellie Vigil
  • (505) 667-2818
  • Email
  • Institute Administrator
  • Vacant

2016 Projects and Teams

Remote assessment of the mechanical/structural properties of an airstrip and supporting soil in a denied environment.

Project Description

It is often the case that it is desirable to land aircraft on an airstrip that might be in a denied area. One of the challenges associated with planning these landings is that it is often not clear if the airstrip possesses the mechanical and structural characteristics to support the operations of the desired aircraft. Current state-of-practice for the assessment of airfields involves a manual visual inspection of the airfield and the use of cone penetrator tests of the soil and visual inspection. It would desirable to be able to be able to perform and airfield damage assessment remotely without the use of teams on the ground. Preferably this could be done using satellite or aerial imagery or in order to identify high-quality runways before resources are expended seizing the runway.



Michelle Mosby, Audrey Roman, Justine Davidson

Detecting evidence of tamper in analog sensing and computing systems

Project Description

Software-based, digital control systems offer a number of advantages in terms of flexibility, scalability and the ease of remote use. Unfortunately these same attributes make them an attractive target from a cyber-security perspective. It is very difficult to ensure that a digital system does not possess any vulnerability. As a result, there is currently interest in using traditional analog technology or hybrid digital/analog to manage control loops for critical infrastructure. The idea being that analog control systems are inherently more robust to remote cyber attacks. Though hybrid analog/digital systems may have certain security advantages, there are still a number of unknowns associated with the security of these systems when they are deployed in the field in an unattended manner. In these cases, how does one verify that an analog sensing/computation package has not been compromised? The goal of this project is to explore this question, identify possible exploits, and propose a path forward for the next- generation design practice and verification of forward-deployed sensing and computational packages.



Project Team

Patrick Onochie, Amanda King, Amanda Neukirch

Sparse Distributed Sensor Networks for High-Resolution Ecosystem Monitoring

Project Description

There is great interest in obtaining measurements for characterizing ecosystems that have high spatio/temporal resolution. This measurement capability would enhance our ability to:

  • Observe ecosystems and understand relationships between their biological, chemical, and physical components.
  • Recognize when there is a disturbance in an ecosystem (chemical pollution, decrease in certain animal species…) and quickly implement an effective strategy to counter the problem.

Unfortunately, instrumenting the entirety of an ecosystem is prohibitively expensive. As an alternative, it is speculated that it may be possible to instrument only the outlets of rivers and tributaries to try and infer ecosystem disturbances upstream at high spatio/temporal resolution. The goal of this project is to try and devise new methods for using sparse measurements to infer the overall state of the ecosystem. Potential solution pathways include:

  • Establish a network of biological, chemical, and physical sensors that monitor an ecosystem in real time.
  • Develop a computational model and learn the intra-system inter-dependencies without disturbances (baseline).
  • Use the model to identify disturbances and recommend best approach to normalizing the ecosystem.
  • Explore the use of compressive sampling, sparse/low-rank decomposition, collaborative filtering, fractal dimension and complex systems theory to infer the state of the system at high-resolution upstream using only sparse measurements.


Momchilo Vuyisich, (B-11: Bioenergy and Biome Sciences)

Project Team

Hanqing Pan, Miguel Santiago, Alex Marchi

Strategies for Contested, Congested and Competitive Space.

Project Description

Space has become a vital and indispensable domain for commercial, scientific and national security activities. GPS navigation and timing, satellite TV and Radio, Google map satellite images, paging systems, weather observation systems, and satellite internet services are but a few of the information services enabled by space systems. However in the last 15 years space has become "Congested, Contested and Competitive". Space debris has become an increasingly worrisome hazard to manned and unmanned space activities. In 2007, the Chinese anti-satellite test generated thousands of pieces of new debris that can be a hazard to many spacecraft. How would we fix the debris problem in the future? If the world decides to propose an outer space weapons ban treaty, how would it be verified? Los Alamos played a key role in the Nuclear Limited Test-Ban treaty in the early 1960's by providing the required space instrumentation to verify that no-one would illegally test a nuclear weapon in space. How would a general ban on space weapons (of all kinds) be verified?



Project Team

Edmund Meyer, Greg Bowers, John Gibbs

Signature Presentations

  • Nan Sauer – An Introduction to the Science of Signatures
  • Momchilo Vuyisich – Enabling Remote Biosurveys with Sparse Measurements
  • Amy Larson – Radiography
  • Ryan Maupin – The Change-of-Station Experience
  • eff Bloch – The Challenges Associated with Space Debris
  • Kathleen McDonald – Tech Transfer
  • Danielle Kristen & Rollin Lakis – Security for Analog Computation
  • Katie Richardson - Advocating for your Research: A Perspective from a U.S. Senator’s Staff
  • Geoff Reeves – Radiation Belts and Van Allen Probes
  • Andrea Polli – Design Thinking
  • Kendra Van Buren – Multi-Intelligence and Data Fusion Research at Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Bill Priedhorsky – Proposal Writing and Living in Northern New Mexico
  • Yongchao Yang – Extracting Structural Dynamics from Video
  • Karl Jonietz – Collaborations
  • David Coblentz – The Earth’s Crust State of Stress – Why it’s important and why it’s a challenge to measure
  • David Clark – How to Write Proposals
  • Paul Dixon – How to Interact with Your Program Manager
  • Carrie Keating – Public Speaking
  • Chris Ory and Chris Johansen – History and Evolution of IEDs
  • Mike Todd – Academic Life and Getting a Faculty Job
  • Paul Johnson – Nonlinear Elasticity and Dynamic Triggering of Earthquake Slip
  • Duncan McBranch – Experience Commercializing Los Alamos National Laboratory Technology
  • Reiner Freidel – Perspective from an External Program Manager
  • Derek Tournear – Modeling a Career After a Photo-Multiplier Tube