Vikas Sonwalkar

Vikas Sonwalkar

Background and Research Interests

Dr. Sonwalkar came to Fairbanks in 1995 where he is a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on plasma, acoustic and electromagnetic wave propagation, and digital signal processing. He has supervised research of 3 PhD and 15 MS students in the past and is currently supervising research activities of one doctoral and two MS students.

Dr. Sonwalkar has worked on research projects sponsored by NASA, NSF, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, and Alaska Space Grant Program. He has been concerned with understanding generation mechanisms and propagation of electromagnetic waves of natural and/or man-made origins in the terrestrial, Venusian, and Neptunian magnetospheres. He has analyzed and interpreted plasma wave data from a number of spacecraft (ISEE 1, DE 1, DE 2, ACTIVNY, COSMOS 1809, PVO, Voyager 2, IMAGE) and ground stations (Siple, Lake Mistissini).

Professor Sonwalkar's Personal Website (Waves Laboratory)


  • ES 451 - Digital Signal Processing
  • EE 461 - Communication Systems
  • EE 611 - Waves


  • Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 1986
  • M.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Sciences, University of Rochester, 1978
  • B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, India, 1976

Areas of Specialization

  • Space physics
  • Remote sensing
  • Wave propagation
  • Acoustics
  • Digital signal processing
  • Electronics


Remote sensing of the magnetosphere using very low frequency (VLF) waves

The IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration) spacecraft was the first satellite mission dedicated to imaging the Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by the Earth's magnetic field and containing extremely tenuous plasmas of both solar and terrestrial origin. The main science objective of the Radio Plasma Imager (RPI) instrument on IMAGE was to characterize plasma in the Earth's magnetosphere utilizing imaging in the radio frequency range.

Ultra wideband (UWB) signal propagation and Receiver Design

The commercialization of radio devices based on the principles of ultra-wideband (UWB) radio technology is widely anticipated in view of its recent endorsement by US regulators (FCC) and the corresponding international efforts towards a globally compatible regulatory framework. The potential uses and the commercial opportunities of UWB are expected to be significant because of its broad applicability, e.g., for communication, imaging, ranging, location sensing and security.

According to the FCC's Part 15 definition, UWB radio signals have either a fractional bandwidth (i.e., the ratio between the signal's bandwidth and its center frequency) that is greater than 0.2 or an absolute bandwidth of at least 500 MHz. In the 3.1 - 10.6 GHz spectrum range UWB radio devices for communications applications can emit on average an equivalent isotropic radiated power (EIRP) spectral density of up to -41.25 dBm/MHz or, equivalently, up to 75 nW/MHz.

Observing Radiation In Our North (ORION) Project

Observing Radiation In Our North (ORION), formally known as Neighborhood Environmental Watch Network (NEWNET) , was initiated to provide an opportunity for Alaska Native undergraduate college students to participate in environmental monitoring, research, and communication of the results through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.ORION is a network of stations that gather both meteorological and radiological data. The data are transmitted via the GOES West satellite to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The data are loaded into a database that is accessible by the public via the internet at http//

Awards and Honors

  • URSI Fellowship Grant Award, July 2005.
  • Outstanding graduate student Advising, College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics, UAF, May 2004.
  • Los Alamos Achievement Award, 1997.
  • URSI Young Scientist Award, 1987 (awarded to two young scientists nationwide).
  • URSI best student paper award, 1986 (awarded to three students nationwide).
  • Award for the best student in Fluid Mechanics, University of Rochester, 1977
  • J. N. Tata Endowment Fellowship to study abroad, 1976.
  • Certificate of academic excellence, 1973, 74, 75, 76, IIT, Kanpur.
  • Prize for standing 3rd in a class of 200 in the core years (first three years common to all engineering students) at IIT, Kanpur, 1974.
  • Merit-Cum-Means Scholarship (IIT, Kanpur), 1971-76.
  • National Merit Scholarship (Govt. of India), 1969-71.