In Memoriam of Dr. Lisa M. Zurk

Dr Lisa M. Zurk founded the Northwest Electromagnetics and Acoustics Research Laboratory (NEAR-Lab) in 2005. Her pioneering work there focused on the modeling and analysis of wave propagation and scattering for the development of advanced signal processing techniques and algorithms. Some important applications include advanced sonar beamforming algorithms, continuous active sonar processing, ocean environment noise monitoring, microwave and Terahertz (THz) synthetic aperture imaging, and advanced THz spectroscopy for security screening and non-destructive evaluation applications.

Dr. Zurk was the author of over 50 technical papers, and received multiple recognitions and honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, and the Early Faculty Award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). She was selected as a recipient for a Murdock grant, an NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant, and as a Fulbright scholar. These and her other funding awards provided for the construction of the NEAR-Lab’s research laboratories with state-of-the-art computers and scientific equipment.

From 2005 to 2016 Dr. Zurk served as advisor to more than 40 students in the NEAR-Lab, and taught courses in advanced electromagnetics, acoustics, computational methods and radar/sonar signal processing in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) dept. at PSU. Dr. Zurk continually challenged her students to stretch themselves to achieve more than they thought was possible. She advised each of them to identify their personal career goals and then encouraged them to take practical steps to move in that direction. Her tireless research efforts generated opportunities for her students to work with advanced laboratory equipment, collaborate with other universities, publish peer-reviewed journal articles and present results at professional conferences around the world.

The success of Dr. Zurk’s students speaks volumes of the impact her efforts at PSU have had on the next generation of innovators. Today, NEAR-Lab alumni can be found at top tech companies such as Apple, Boeing, Intel, Tektronix, and Metron Scientific Solutions; nationally-renowned research organizations like JHU/APL, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and even internationally at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and Jasco Applied Sciences.

In 2016 Dr. Zurk took leave from PSU to serve as a Program Manager in the Strategic Technologies Office (STO) at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA). In 2017 she was chosen as the Executive Director of the University of Washington (UW) Applied Physics Laboratory and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Sadly, Dr. Zurk’s health deteriorated in recent years and she died suddenly on January 12, 2022. Her legacy of academic excellence and rigorous research will remain with her students and colleagues at PSU. Lisa will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

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