As a research biomedical engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory Human Effectivness Directorate, Wharmby and his team focus on developing digital image and video processing algorithms. In short, his division helps develop laser protection standards for the Air Force.
“The threat has always been there but, recently, high-powered laser threats have been growing,” Wharmby said.
The protection standards he helps develop are a critical safety effort, he added.
“We’re really trying to stay ahead of the game,” he said.
Wharmby earned his master’s degree from UTSA in 2010 and completed his Ph.D. in 2013.
It was while he was working on his Ph.D. with then-professor Ronald Bagley that he extended Maxwell’s equations, originally written in the 1870s. The equations are now valid in dielectric materials instead of solely in a vacuum as the equations were originally written.
What does this mean?
“We’re re-writing things that haven’t been touched in 100 years using tools derived from the fractional calculus, which is a branch of calculus that deals with integrals and derivatives of non-integer order. For example, the mathematics allows for a one-half order derivative instead of a first or second order derivative,” Wharmby said.
Technical speak aside, Wharmby is changing the face of engineering as it’s taught today. And he did it all on paper alongside a pioneer in mechanical engineering.
“This sort of calculation is typically done on high performance computing clusters like UTSA’s SHAMU, but we did it with pencil and paper,” he says with a laugh. “And if Bagley had not done what he did in the mechanical engineering discipline of viscoelasticity, I never would have been able to modify these equations.”
Wharmby’s research has been published in the International Journal of Engineering Science, as well as other peer-reviewed journals.
But with any good research, there is always more to learn, Wharmby said. So even though he’s discovered something, he’s ensured work for years to come.
“A well-answered question produces more questions,” he said. “I’m trying to foster this and mature it. We’re expecting to get a lot of attention in upcoming years. Now, we’re at the forefront of the discipline. I’m pretty excited about it.”