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Compass Newsletter Masthead
   Volume IV, Issue 5
May 2008   

Outstanding Faculty Research Award recipient Ahmad Hoorfar speaks at Falvey

Ahmad Hoorfar, Ph.D, professor of electrical and computer engineering and winner of Villanova University’s Outstanding Faculty Research Award in 2007, spoke on April 9 at Falvey Library about using evolutionary algorithms in engineering.

Engineers use these algorithms to find the optimal solution to mathematical equations that represent design characteristics. For example, Dr. Hoorfar, who founded and directs Villanova’s Antenna Research Laboratory, has used evolutionary algorithms to determine the best design for antennas used in NASA’s deep space communication network. He is currently using evolutionary algorithms on various projects, including through-wall microwave imaging, which would assist in firefighting and law enforcement. Other researchers have used evolutionary algorithms to optimize the timing of traffic signals.

Dr. Hoorfar discussed different types of evolutionary algorithms, including genetic algorithms, particle swarm optimization and evolutionary programming. “Each evolutionary algorithm is well suited for some types of problems while performing poorly on others,” said Dr. Hoorfar. The genetic algorithm method takes a set of trial solutions, tests the fitness of the individual solutions and uses the best of those to create the next generation of solutions.

The particle swarm optimization method uses the conjecture from social biology that bee swarms will ultimately settle on the most fertile feeding location. Evolutionary programming uses a mathematical function to generate mutations in the population. “The power of evolutionary programming,” said Dr. Hoorfar, “is that it is not intuitive but it works.”

Dr. Hoorfar has written over 150 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and conference papers and over 60 technical reports. Dr. Hoorfar’s former graduate student, John McVay, Ph.D., won the best paper award of those co-authored by students, for his work on metamaterial surfaces, at the 2003 IEEE Sarnoff Symposium on Advances in Wired and Wireless Communications. 

Contributed by Alfred Fry