Doherty Uses GPS Technology In Developing Countries

Patricia Doherty, the director and senior research scientist at the Institute for Scientific Research (ISR) at Boston College, recently received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. Doherty won the award in recognition of her initiative to help developing countries derive social and economic benefits from satellite-based technology.

In addition to this honor, the Institute of Navigation (ION) presented Doherty the 2014 Weems Award for her contributions to the management and encouragement of advanced navigation research.

The mission of ISR is to conduct experimental and theoretical research on space physics, the solar-terrestrial environment, and space weather to promote ethical and innovative change, she said.

The ISR aims to prove high-quality research publications to contribute to the education of future scientist—it hopes to contribute the education of scientists and represent BC as a scientific research leader, Doherty said.

Her position at ISR requires Doherty to manage research contracts and grants. Doherty also supervises a group of approximately 40 scientists whose research focuses on various scientific fields.

“The overall scope of our group’s research encompasses everything from the center of the Sun to the surface of the Earth,” Doherty said. “This includes studies of solar physics, space physics, space chemistry, space weather, radio wave propagation, satellite studies, and stellar calibrations.”

Doherty has recently been studying space weather, which describes conditions in space that affect Earth.

To do so, Doherty has focused her attention on the Global Positioning System (GPS), which can be used to navigate from one place to another.

“GPS has many applications that can be used for societal and economic benefits, including precision farming, emergency location systems, natural resource monitoring, fleet tracking, monitoring the location of vulnerable citizens,” Doherty said. “GPS is a great resource for scientific exploration. In our research, we have been using specialized GPS monitoring equipment to study space weather around the world.”

ISR can help scientists around the world by providing the latest scientific technology to scientists around the world, especially in countries that lack continuous and reliable research.

By supplying this type of research, ISR demonstrates its dedication to its mission, which focuses on improving regions of the world where there has been few continuous scientific research projects.

“Our worldwide networks of GPS space weather monitors provides new information on the physics of the ionosphere by providing measurements” Doherty said. “Bringing GPS technology and space research to developing countries has a positive effect on their future development.”

Doherty explained that her love for science came about at an early age. She emphasized that she was in the right place at the right time to work with GPS.

“As a child, I hoped to be an astronaut. But considering my fear of heights, I had to find another way to satisfy my interest,” Doherty said. “This new technology just exploded with possibilities for scientific research.”

With such developments in her own research, Doherty wonders what other research she will conduct. When looking toward the future of space research, Doherty believes that the field will only expand and improve over time. No scientific technology is perfect, Doherty said. Each has room to grow and become more precise with adjustments.

“GPS has given us so many opportunities to study the ionosphere, the Sun-Earth connection and the effects of space weather around the world,” Doherty said. “However, GPS is not perfect. It has limitations, errors sources and is susceptible to signal interruption and jamming.”

Although GPS technology is not always precise in nature, Doherty believes in an ever-growing scientific technology.
ISR’s mission to help developing countries continues to stay true, especially with the addition of other scientific systems that are in the process of developing. Doherty is in the middle of submitting another proposal for further space weather research.

The ISR wishes to support the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to define performance capabilities of aviation systems using the next generation of GNSS satellites and signals.

“At this time, however, GPS is being upgraded with stronger signals and signals with specific purposes such as civilian applications and aviation,” Doherty said. “In addition, other constellations of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are in development. With so many more signals and greater signal strength, we will have greater opportunities from our studies.”

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor