Professor appointed by President Biden to National Science Board speaks on journey and work

The Lantern
Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska at an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) testing campaign in Berlin, Germany. Courtesy of Dorta Grejner-Brzezinska

Ancient navigators and Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska share a key trait: a curiosity to explore, discover and map the world.

Grejner-Brzezinska, the vice president of knowledge enterprise and a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, followed her childhood fascination with maps to a career working with GPS and the Global Navigation Satellite System. Due to that ambition, Grejner-Brzezinska was appointed to the National Science Board by President Joe Biden Jan. 13, according to a White House press release .

“It’s not just a recognition — it’s actually quite a bit of work,” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “I don’t shy out from this type of work because it’s potentially very impactful.”

Grejner-Brzezinska said the 24-member National Science Board plays multiple roles, including developing new policies related to research, development and education “in science and engineering.” The board also advises the president and Congress on science and engineering, according to the press release.

Allison MacKay, chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, said the board oversees the National Science Foundation , an organization which supports national research.

“Many of the graduate students at Ohio State are funded off of grants that have come to faculty from the National Science Foundation,” MacKay said.

Grejner-Brzezinska said her journey to the board began in Poland where she studied geomatic engineering, a way of surveying the earth. While there, she said she stumbled across a new concept — the Global Positioning System.

“I said, ‘I need to get to the bottom of this thing,’” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “When I was a student, there was still an embargo on GPS equipment in my home country [Poland], so I applied for a Fulbright scholarship to the geodetic science program at Ohio State.”

At the time, GPS was considered a Department of Defense project with no expected civilian applications, Grejner-Brzezinska said. That has since changed.

“We evolved, over these 20-plus years, going from enabling GPS itself to so many different applications,” Grejner-Brzezinska said.

As GPS expanded, so did Grejner-Brzezinska’s research interests, she said. She is currently co-director of the university’s Satellite Positioning and Inertial Navigation Laboratory with Charles Toth, a research professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering.

“Students and Dr. Toth and I have been working on developing the next generations of what we call integrated navigation systems, or multi-sensor navigation systems,” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “We developed algorithms and methods and eventually prototyped new systems to expand the capabilities of GPS in those areas where GPS is not available.”

Toth said Grejner-Brzezinska’s and his own specialties complement each other nicely, which made the pair “effective going for grants and doing a variety of projects.”

Grejner-Brzezinska said she had only planned to stay at Ohio State for one year; however, it turned into 30 because she’s “still learning.”

While at Ohio State, Grejner-Brzezinska said she has served as a researcher and as a professor and in various leadership positions throughout the university, including as an associate dean for research in the College of Engineering, .

“I love focusing on enabling the success of other people, so I love working with junior faculty,” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “I love working across the boundaries of disciplines.”

MacKay said Grejner-Brzezinska’s interdisciplinary mindset is one of her greatest strengths.

“She has an incredible ability to quickly pick up on what the key elements are of research in lots of different realms,” MacKay said. “Not just within the area that she personally has specialized in — published in, but to be able to look across a lot of other different areas.”

Grejner-Brzezinska said boundless curiosity is what fosters that mindset.

“Curiosity will lead you,” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “Asking questions of colleagues and researchers and students from outside your own discipline will open horizons and generate even more questions, but that’s really a way to learn.”

From a young girl fascinated by stories of ancient explorers and maps, to Ohio State’s first woman to be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering , to now a member of the National Science Board, Grejner-Brzezinska said she would give one piece of advice to her younger self.

“Be curious and ask questions,” Grejner-Brzezinska said. “Every question has a reason to be and deserves an answer. And if you are not satisfied, keep drilling.”

Comments / 0

Published by

The Lantern is the independent, award-winning student voice of Ohio State, covering sports, campus, politics, and arts and life.

Columbus, OH

More from The Lantern

Comments / 0