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Success Through Chaos

Success Through ChaosKyle Bradbury (E'07) recently received an award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation in recognition of his research into chaos theory and communications processing.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.15.06] As Kyle Bradbury readily admits, "I have no immediate plans for going into space." But after winning a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, the senior electrical engineering major is flying high.

Tufts has already seen one Jumbo in space—Rick Hauck (A'62), a retired Hall of Fame astronaut and veteran of three shuttle flights. Hauck, a Tufts trustee emeritus, also sits on the board of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which he says "rewards and supports students who are doing extraordinary work in cutting edge technology."

This month, Hauck came to Tufts to present one of the foundation's 18 scholarships to Bradbury, who is researching chaotic signals in communications.

Hauck"I am currently working on a new communications system that would operate secretly using chaotic signals, which appear as random noise to most receivers," explains Bradbury. "We want to take these random-looking signals and make them useful in terms of communications."

Yet Bradbury's work, which he says could have both military and commercial applications, is more than just a way of increasing security for communications.

"I think the greatest implications will be in application of chaos theory," he says. "If it's shown that chaos theory could be used for practical applications such as this, then who knows where that might lead in terms of future research."

Bradbury is intrigued by the yet-untapped applications of chaos theory—which is the study of order within randomness—and he hopes to be on the forefront of uncovering them.

"There was a level of mystery to it, and it's a relatively new field, so it was exciting for me to make some contribution to it," he explains.

Bradbury says he was greatly influenced by his advisor, Professor of Electrical Engineering Joseph Noonan.

"I had been talking to him about my future [last spring], and he mentioned some research he was doing on taking signals from an EEG scan, and using those to detect whether or not a seizure would occur in epileptic patients," he recalls. "His goal was to create a device that would administer medication to people who were suffering from epileptic seizures."

Bradbury also admired his advisor's commitment to improving people's lives. "I decided then to go into signal processing, with the hope that it would lead to humanitarian benefits."

Hauck could tell there was more to Bradbury's efforts than commercial applications. "I could tell Kyle was focused on both the technology side, and the humanistic side," he says. "It's a wonderful conjunction."

Bradbury acknowledges that his specific area of study, chaotic signals in communications, is unlikely to have a wide effect on the general population. However, as he notes, chaotic signals are often found in human beings.

"There is research… that is looking at different processes, such as the beating of the heart and different signals found in the brain," says Bradbury. "The signals themselves may be chaotic, and if we were able to understand how those signals worked…we could diagnose problems much more quickly."

Bradbury believes this is just the beginning. "I hope that this opens doors, more so than this project being an end itself," he explains. After all, says Bradbury, "I believe that research is only important if it has benefits for humanity."

Profile written by James Gerber, Class of 2008

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