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Alex Miller (EECS & Physics ’21) wins Dean A. Horn Award for Undergraduate Study in Marine Research

Alex Miller headshot

MIT Sea Grant announces the winner of the 2021 Dean A. Horn Award for Undergraduate Study in Marine Research. This year’s award goes to Alex Miller, a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Physics, for his work on “Simple Modem: A Low Cost Acoustic Modem Implementation for Remote Sensing Applications.”

Alex Miller grew up in Seattle, Washington tinkering with electromechanical systems, building underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and learning about oceanography. As an undergraduate at MIT, Alex researched deployable lunar tower infrastructure with the MELLTT project team and signal processing for physical oceanography with Andrew Babbin. Alex’s inspiration for the project, built during the open-ended project component of a course instructed by Professor Steven Leeb, came from learning about Marty Klein’s work on acoustics, and conversations with Nicholas Orndorff and Clara Orndorff.

Mr Miller’s work focuses on creating a low-cost, high-quality, easily implemented communications system for use by the marine sensing research and hobbyist communities. Dense remote sensing networks require large numbers of low-cost communication systems that works with and integrates seamlessly with arbitrary sensor, actuation and power systems. SimpleModem does exactly this. Mr. Miller has designed the SimpleModem architecture to work with future interchangeable acoustic actuators, enabling communication through water, air and high density sediments.

Reviewers of Mr. Miller’s work were impressed with the level of technical detail and quality of execution, stating the “fact that this is undergraduate [work] is truly remarkable. Typically, it takes a multi-person team several years to develop an acoustic modem.” In addition, the reviews found “that the report Alex provided to be technically very clear and easy to follow. This was one of the criteria that Dean Horn valued very highly.” In addition, these types of low cost communication systems allow citizen scientists to get involved with more comprehensive remote sensing projects, which is exciting and useful to MIT Sea Grant’s mission of outreach and stakeholder engagement.

Dean A. Horn was Director of MIT Sea Grant from 1975 to 1982. The Award originated upon his retirement in 1983, when friends and colleagues established the award to honor his ideals: service, creativity, pursuit of excellence and tireless application to research. An award of $1000 is presented yearly to selected MIT undergraduate students for a creative marine-related project and resulting paper. Students from any academic department are eligible.

>> View past winners and more about the Dean Horn Award