Dennis Helder-200x300Dennis Helder

Position Title: Associate Dean for Research
Department: College of Engineering
Area of Research: Radiometric, Geometric and Spatial Calibration of Satellite and Airborne Optical Sensors

What motivates you about your chosen field?

I found that I really enjoyed image processing when I was in graduate school. Having USGS EROS, the largest archive of land satellite imagery in the country, just down the road from SDSU gave me the opportunity I wanted to work with images. Calibration converts those images from pretty pictures to accurate data sets that can be used for a variety of scientific purposes such as global change monitoring, deforestation, water management, and many others.

Why did you choose to conduct your research at SDSU?

I was born and raised in this area. So it’s fun to work at home, yet do high tech research!

What roles do your colleagues and student research assistants play in the work you do?

Our research lab works as a team. We have staff members, as well as several students, working together to solve satellite calibration problems. Everyone brings something to the table and it’s fun to integrate it all together to accomplish the tasks we are funded to address.

What have been some of your greatest research accomplishments while at State?

The most recent one occurred about a year ago when we developed a consistent calibration for the entire Landsat archive. Landsat sensors have been in orbit since 1972 and eight different instruments have collected images of the earth’s surface from then until now. However, the sensors were not calibrated to a consistent radiometric scale. We completed that calibration—it took us about 10 years—this past year so that now scientists can use Landsat images from 1972 and compare them to images of the same location obtained in 2012 and be assured that the changes they see actually are due to changes on the Earth rather than changes in the satellite sensor.

What do you enjoy most about SDSU?

Working with the faculty and students. I have always been impressed with the faculty I have been blessed to work with. They are genuinely good folks that enjoy working for the benefit of students and their profession. Students are great, too. They help keep us more ‘mature’ faculty young in our perspectives and always bring new ideas to the table.

What piece of advice would you give new students?

Get to know your professors. They are people, just like you, and are here because they want to work with students.