Welcome to Alumni & Corporate Relations

Prof. Ram Mohan Narayanan

1976/B.Tech/EE Professor, Pennsylvania State University, USA

Prof. Ram Mohan Narayanan is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. He received his B. Tech. in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in 1976, graduating with First Class with Distinction (equivalent to Summa Cum Laude). He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts.

Dr. Narayanan’s research interests include electromagnetic scattering, radar signal processing, and wireless communications. He has authored or co-authored over 500 technical papers and has received numerous awards for his research contributions, including the IEEE Warren D. White Award for outstanding contributions to radar engineering.

In addition to his research accomplishments, Dr. Narayanan has also served as an associate editor for several IEEE journals and has given invited tutorial presentations at international conferences on radar technology.

Throughout his career, Dr. Narayanan has held various appointments at prestigious institutions around the world. Prior to joining Pennsylvania State University, he was a faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a research assistant at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has also held design and engineering positions at Bharat Electronics Limited, India’s premier electronics company.

Throughout his career, Dr. Narayanan has made remarkable contributions to the field of engineering. With over 500 technical papers authored or co-authored, he has demonstrated a deep understanding and knowledge of the subject matter. His outstanding research contributions have been recognized with several awards, including the IEEE Warren D. White Award for radar engineering, and he has served as an associate editor for multiple IEEE journals. He received the IETE Students’ Journal Award – 2017 for his paper “Sources and Reduction of Noise in Circuits and Systems”. He has also been invited to give tutorial presentations at international conferences on radar technology. In addition to his academic achievements, he has been recognized as a Fellow of IEEE, SPIE, and IETE, and has received various outstanding service awards from the IEEE Geoscience & Remote Sensing Society and Aerospace & Electronics Systems Society. He has also won several university awards for research, teaching, and service. With appointments at esteemed institutions around the world, such as the University of Nebraska and the University of Massachusetts, he has undoubtedly left a significant impact on the field of engineering. His accomplishments continue to inspire and motivate others to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

Overall, Dr. Narayanan’s work has made significant contributions to the fields of electromagnetic scattering, radar signal processing, and wireless communications, earning him a reputation as one of the leading experts in these areas today.

For his achievements and contributions towards scientific innovation, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and its alumni are proud to confer the Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Ram Mohan Narayanan.


1. What inspired you to pursue a career in electrical engineering?

As a child growing up in Chennai and Delhi, I was keenly aware of the importance of electric power for operating lights and fans, and the radio for listening to music and cricket commentaries. Many times, we had to suffer through power cuts and load shedding, causing great hardship. I often wondered what would happen if the power stopped working permanently. Therefore, I thought that pursuing a career in electrical engineering would help me solve many of the problems affecting everyone.

2. Can you tell us about your current research projects and their potential impact?

My work deals with the development of novel radar systems and implementation of advanced radar signal processing algorithms. One of my current projects is the use of a concept I proposed, called information elasticity, in sensor signal processing. Its impact is to reduce the amount of data needed by a sensor to make a reliable decision, such as detecting a target or tracking it. A second project deals with the application of the common Sudoku grid pattern for antenna beamforming. Its impact is to enable the formation of multiple independent beams in antenna arrays for performing several tasks, such as detecting a target in one direction which communicating with a receiver in another direction. A third project involves the use of radar micro-Doppler phenomena to detect irregular gait patterns. Its impact lies in the ability for doctors to quickly assess the condition of persons with gait abnormalities, such as injured athletes and those afflicted with neuromuscular disorders, for early intervention.

3.  How has your research contributed to the field of electromagnetic scattering?

I have developed analytical models to describe electromagnetic scattering from indoor objects, such as furniture, light fixtures, walls, etc., and validated my models using measurements. Since such objects are irregular in shape, the scattering must be evaluated numerically, which takes a lot of time. This work is significant because reflections from such objects can confound detection of humans inside rooms and also cause signal fading in communications. I have also developed and validated electromagnetic models for outdoor features, such as vegetation (trees and shrubs) and snow, an understanding of which can improve detection of outdoor targets, such as tanks and artillery.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges facing radar signal processing today?

One of the biggest challenges facing radar signal processing today is the inability to process the big data produced by radar sensors. While data rates are going up rapidly, the signal processor chain is not fast enough to process all of the data collected by the radar. Work is ongoing in developing sparse algorithms which can make decisions by processing less of the data, using the paradigm of information elasticity proposed by me. Another challenge facing current radar signal processors is the difficulty in processing ultrawideband data efficiently. Ultrawideband signals are increasingly being used in radar to achieve finer resolutions for better target recognition. Several resolution enhancement approaches are being investigated to achieve finer resolutions with smaller bandwidth signals. Other challenges include detection in heavily cluttered environments and high interference, tracking of multiple targets, and non-cooperative target recognition.

5. How do you see wireless communications evolving in the next decade?

There is verily a wireless explosion happening now with significant advances expected over the next ten years. Some key areas for wireless communications advances are: enhanced deployment of 5G networks offering faster speeds, lower latency, higher device density, and enabling a wider range of applications and services, exponential growth of IoT connected devices driving the need for robust and reliable wireless connectivity, use of millimeter-wave frequencies (above 30 GHz) yielding larger bandwidths, enabling faster data rates, and greater capacity, rise of edge computing and fog networking, and increasing use of artificial intelligence to improve spectrum utilization, network efficiency, and resource allocation. Beyond the next decade, emerging technologies like terahertz communication, visible light communication (Li-Fi), and quantum communication hold the potential to revolutionize wireless communications further.

6. Can you discuss any recent breakthroughs or advancements in radar technology that excite you?

One of the most exciting recent breakthroughs is the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in radar technology and applications, which are expected to show significant improvements in radar performance. These include the generation of better radar signals for adaptively enhancing target detection and interference suppression, better control of the transmit bandwidth to avoid hostile detection and being a source of interference, and better ability to recognize and classify targets from noisy images. Another exciting breakthrough is miniaturization, called system-on-a-chip, which is an integrated circuit that integrates all components and sub-systems of the radar, including the radio frequency components, central processing unit (CPU), memory interfaces, input/output devices, etc. Miniaturization makes the entire radar system have a small form factor compatible with size, weight, and cost constraints for small platforms, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and drones.

7. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in electrical engineering or related fields?

The most useful advice is to recognize that failure is a good option. Most advances are made only after a string of failures, and failures teach us what can go wrong so we do not make the same mistake again. Do not be afraid to fail. The second piece of advice is to recognize that in today’s world, one cannot put electrical engineering into isolated topics, such as signal processing and electromagnetics. The barriers are being broken not only between electrical engineering topics, but also between engineering disciplines, as well as all between engineering and science. Therefore, broaden your horizons and learn a variety of topics and areas to help you succeed. Third, you must have a strong foundation in mathematics and science, especially physics.

8. How do you balance teaching and research responsibilities as a professor?

I consider teaching and research as two pillars of knowledge, each aiding the other. Whatever I learn patiently in research, I try to use in the classroom under “Emerging Topics,” which the students very enthusiastically accept. Sometimes, students provide excellent ideas in the classroom which leads me to new avenues for research exploration or a better approach to a research problem. At times, students ask a question for which I have no immediate answer, which forces me to do more research and thereby enhance my own knowledge. I always think of research and teaching as an integrated unit, so really there is no need to balance or trade off one against the other.

9. Can you tell us about any upcoming conferences or events where you will be presenting your work?

I plan to present my work at the 2024 IEEE Radar Conference in Denver and the 2024 SPIE Conference on Radar Sensor Technology in Washington. If time permits, I may also present my work at the 2024 11th Microwave and Radar Week in Wrocław, Poland.

10. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a professor and researcher?

The most rewarding aspect is always being around young inquisitive minds and never stopping learning. Every day and every interaction bring gifts to learn something new, and to see the brightness and excitement in my students’ eyes.

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