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Student Involvement - IP Lab

Student Involvement in the SDSU Image Processing Laboratory

Guinea Bissau
Guinea-Bissau, taken by Landsat 7, from the Earth as Art collection

Most of the work in the IP Lab is done by students! We typically have 8-12 students working in the lab at any one time. These are students from the undergraduate level all the way through Ph.D. students. 

The type of work that students do can be quite variable, but it usually centers around analyzing data obtained from optical remote sensing satellite images in an effort to understand how to improve the radiometric calibration of those satellite sensors. But, students also go out to our test site for calibration campaigns, build hardware and conduct experiments in the Optics Lab.

We work with a wide variety of satellites. Probably the best approach to understand what the lab does is to consider the Google Earth or Google Maps applications. The satellite imagery in those products range from Landsat imagery—the lower resolution imagery that allows you to see large areas — to the Worldview imagery that allows you to see your house and even cars on the street. The IP Lab calibrates all of that imagery! We make sure the brightness values are correct so that the colors are true and the pixels represent an accurate reflection of the Earth’s surface. But, more importantly, and surpassing the need for a pretty picture in Google Earth, we ensure that the values of the pixels can be accurately converted to units of energy upwelling from the surface so that scientists can do analyses on these images to determine drought in Africa, deforestation in the Amazon, rice production in Thailand and many other applications. 

The SDSU Image Processing Laboratory is known worldwide as one of the premiere satellite calibration laboratories. We work with many different satellites – Landsat, MODIS, Hyperion, ALI, Worldview, RapidEye, IKONOS, just to name a few – and many different organizations in the world that fly satellites. These include companies and agencies in the U.S. like NASA, USGS EROS, NOAA, Planet and Digital Globe, to space agencies and companies around the world like SSTL in Great Britain, CNES in France, VITO in Belgium, GISTDA in Thailand, KARI in South Korea, INPE in Brazil and the list goes on and on. 

Students who work in our laboratory quickly become very expert at using software packages such as Matlab and ENVI, at programming to develop image processing algorithms, at applying statistical analysis to images to answer key question and at enjoying the beautiful imagery that constitutes the surface of our planet. Each year a key calibration meeting is held at USGS EROS that all lab students attend. At this meeting, they get to interact with the top calibration scientists in the world; this interaction often leads to employment opportunities following graduation.

However, it is not all work and no play in the SDSU IP Lab. We enjoy disc golf tournaments and ice cream runs in the summer, as well as potluck meals year round. Students in the lab learn from each other, make lifelong friends, and also develop work skills that will serve them their entire lives.

Consider joining us and seeing what the world really looks like!

Larry Leigh
Director, SDSU Image Processing Lab