ECE Advisory Board
About the Board
The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Advisory Board provides counsel to the ECE Department Chair and Associate Chairs regarding the mission, goals, and strategic plans of the Department, and seeks to promote the interests of the Department locally, regionally, and internationally. Members offer their insights, advice, and expertise on a wide range of issues that include undergraduate and graduate education, research activities, strategic planning, corporate partnerships, fundraising, and public relations. Members also serve as liaisons between the Department, industry, government, and other academic institutions.
Dr. James Cantor joined SAIC/Leidos in 1990 as a project manager and worked on several high-profile programs before entering line management as a division manager, operations manager and deputy Group President. In 2014, Dr. Cantor became the National Security Sector Chief Engineer and Leidos Technical Director for Program Execution and in 2016 he assumed these same responsibilities for the entire corporation. As part of his role, Dr. Cantor focuses on the technical and execution risk of Leidos’ most critical programs.
Dr. Cantor has over 30 years experience in program development, system engineering, statistical methods, sensors, signal processing, estimation and detection methodology, simulation system development, and simulation and information technology development primarily for national security applications. Prior to joining Leidos, he was a principal engineer for Computational Engineering, Inc., and also worked for the Naval Research Laboratory and the Department of Army Ballistic Missile Defense Program Office.
Dr. Cantor earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and a Master of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park and he received his Ph.D. in mathematical statistics with an emphasis on time series analysis from George Washington University. Outside activities include serving on the Advisory Board for UMD’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Executive Leadership Team for the American Heart Association.
Sonal Deshpande (Sonnie) is currently the Vice President of Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics (EM&L) for the ISR&T Division of the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Ms. Deshpande’s team is responsible for all the EM&L activity in support of ISR&T System Programs.
Ms. Deshpande joined the corporation as a hardware design engineer in 1986 and was responsible for digital processor design, test and delivery in support of various government programs. In 1999, she was appointed Program Manager and in 2003, served as Programs Director of a US Army helicopter program. In 2004, she was appointed Business Area Director of the USAF B-1 Programs and had business area and program management responsibility for the Development and Sustainment programs for the B-1 AN/APQ-169 Offensive Radar System. In 2007, Ms Deshpande was Business Area Director of Classified Advanced Technology Programs and in 2008 she was appointed Program Director of the S-Band Cobra Judy Replacement Program. In this role, Ms Deshpande had leadership and program management responsibility for the delivery of the CJR S-Band Antenna.
In 2011 Ms. Deshpande was appointed Vice President of ES Logistics Services and was responsible for a comprehensive logistics services strategy that aligns product support and investment strategies to strengthen enterprise performance, customer satisfaction, and shareholder value. She had responsibility for the Logistics Homeroom, consisting of Logistics Systems Engineering, Logistics Program Management, Field Engineering, Technical Publications and Training, and Operations and Repair.
In 2012 Ms. Deshpande was appointed Vice President of Advanced Maritime and IAMD Systems, Ms. Deshpande was responsible for the sector’s advanced Maritime and IAMD solutions focused on innovation, affordable and open architecture concepts to grow and penetrate adjacencies in the maritime electronics and IAMD markets.
Ms. Deshpande received her Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park in 1986. She completed her Master’s of Electrical Engineering degree in 1992 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering. Additionally, she has completed the Harvard Business School General Management Program and various program management and leadership training at Northrop Grumman.
Ms. Deshpande is involved with mentoring middle and high school students through programs which encourage students to pursue a career in Science, Math, Engineering and Technology.
As Chief Customer Officer and Vice President of Customer Operations, Carol functions as executive
level management responsible for the overall processes, systems, and planning that support
internal and external customer interfaces. This includes customer contact center, billing and
related services, outdoor lighting, service quality investigations, new connections (including pre-
engineering and contractual activities), and key business relationships. She is also responsible for
accounts receivable management, energy assistance and the profitability of the outdoor lighting
Previously, Carol was the Vice President of Utility Oversight at Exelon Utilities shortly after BGE
merged with Exelon in 2012 leading the effort in replicating best practices among the three
utilities. During her 25 year career at BGE, Carol has held executive positions in the areas of
Engineering and Project Management, Vision 2020 – Business Transformation and Distribution
Construction Operations & Maintenance.
A Baltimore County native, Carol received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering
from the University of Maryland in 1988, graduating with honors – Eta Kappa Nu. In 1994, she
received a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Baltimore. Carol is
also a six sigma trained black belt.
Carol is a graduate of the 2009 Leadership Class of Baltimore County program. She is a board
member of the Engineering Society of Baltimore, Inc. and the League for People with Disabilities.
Darrell Durst has provided more than 21 years of experience and demonstrated success in support of Lockheed Martin's execution and growth strategies for its multiple intelligence community customers. Darrell joined Lockheed Martin in 1989 and in June 2009 was announced the vice president of the Cyber Solutions line of business within the Lockheed Martin, Information Systems and Global Services-Intelligence product line. Today the Cyber Solutions line of business is comprised of development and operations programs totaling over $270M in revenue and over 600 personnel providing critical cyber-based capabilities to its government customers. These cyber-based programs are executed across the U.S. and foreign countries, where they employ cyber engineers, technologists and strategists developing capabilities with the government customer to meet some of the most challenging threats around the world. These capabilities help defend customer global information networks employing layered, adaptive defenses, advanced encryption technologies, information assurance, intrusion detection, wired and wireless network defense, cyber training and war-gaming, and in-depth security architecture integration. These programs also develop and deliver Quick Reaction Capabilities (QRC) in support of the DoD's Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions to the war-fighter. Darrell has served in numerous engineering and leadership roles throughout his 20-year Lockheed Martin career and overall 24 years within the Intelligence Community. He has developed in-depth knowledge and background of many critical intelligence systems, allowing him to bridge between intelligence systems and domains to help define and deliver efficient and effective capabilities to the government's threats and hard problems. Darrell has a background that includes architecture development, requirements and concept-of-operations development, systems studies, modeling and simulation, and business case development applied to complex communications and signals systems. Darrell served as a first year member of the IS&GS heritage company Diversity Council in 2002 and served as the East South Diversity Council Chair from 2004 to 2006, and is currently a member of the Corporate Lockheed Martin Executive Diversity Council. Darrell holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering, both from Howard University.
Paul Gaske is Executive Vice President and General Manager of the North American Division at Hughes Network Systems, LLC (Hughes). The Division offers the HughesNet(TM) Internet service which focuses on delivering the Internet to rural and underserved markets and is the largest Broadband Satellite Internet Service in the USA. Hughes' North American Division is also a leading provider of Managed Network Services incorporating satellite, wireless and wire-line technologies for medium and large enterprise customers, and offers numerous telecom and emergency service solutions for state and federal government customers. Mr. Gaske is an officer of Hughes Communications, Inc., the parent company of Hughes Network Systems and is a member of the Hughes Communications, Inc. Executive Committee. Mr. Gaske joined Hughes in 1977 as a digital design engineer, and has held a variety of engineering, marketing, and business management positions throughout his career. He has worked extensively on digital communication networks, serving enterprises and consumers throughout the world. Mr. Gaske holds a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland and a Master's Degree in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) and is a published author on satellite networking technologies and markets. He is also the holder of numerous patents in satellite communications and broadband networking.
Sonjai Gupta received his B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland in 1993 and 1996, respectively. He currently works at Spring Ventures in the field of technology product management, marketing and early stage company development. He previously served as Product Manager, Wireless Data, at Sprint Nextel. Before arriving at Spring, he served as Product Marketing Manager at Exostar; Senior Engineer, Digital Communications at Wireless Matrix; and also served as a Member of the Technical Staff, Digital Entertainment, at Hughes Network Systems. He lives in Reston, Virginia.
James Howland is an Associate Technical Director of MITRE’s E530, Electronic Systems and Technology division. E530 works across MITRE’s C3I Federally Funded Research and Development Center sponsors, and is dedicated to technical expertise focused on communications, network, sensors, and signal processing technologies. He serves also as the corporate program lead for several counter improved explosive devices programs for both the DoD and intelligence communities.
Mr. Howland previously served as an associate director in MITRE’s Washington C3 Center, from October 2002 to October 2006. In that capacity he was responsible for the communications, networking, and signal processing technical departments and served as a technical director in W900. In that capacity he was responsible for technology support and W900 technical center support to the intelligence community. He was responsible for expanding the WC3 laboratory and hands-on work programs and assisted in developing the corporate laboratory and capital equipment resources. Prior to his assignment as a director, Mr. Howland was a responsible for the direction of WC3’s Signal Processing Center as a department manager.
As a member of the Technical Staff , Group Leader, then Principal Engineer from 1983 to 1998, he led the development of a several communications, antenna, and microwave system design and development programs. Responsible for the design and development of analog, RF, and microwave circuits and systems. Specific concentration on VHF, UHF, and L-band anti-jam, satellite and data communications systems for ground-to-ground, air-to-ground, and ground-to-space applications. Mr. Howland has expertise in wireless communications protocols including AMPS, GSM, and CDMA. Extensive experience with passive RF and microwave filter design, single and multiple element antenna design, propagation measurements and analysis, radar analysis, SAR imaging systems, PLL and DDS synthesizer design, amplifier design and heterodyne receiver design. CAD/CAE design and simulation experience with EEsof, SPICE, NEC, and other simulation tools.
Before joining MITRE in 1983, Mr. Howland was a physicist with the Foxboro Company He was involved in analysis and design of non intrusive ultrasonic measurement devices for the process control industry.
Born in Pune, India, in 1962, Rajiv Laroia received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Maryland in Electrical Engineering in 1989 and 1992, respectively.
Dr. Laroia’s innovations helped to nearly double the speed of data transmission over voiceband telephone channels. Specifically, he developed new precoding and constellation shaping methods for voiceband telephone line modems.
After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Laroia went to work at the Mathematical Sciences Research Center of Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs. His work there dealt with broadband wireless systems for data communications. He became head of Bell Labs’ Digital Communications Research Department in its Wireless Research Center in 1997.
It is there that Dr. Laroia co-invented a spread spectrum technique for a wireless data systems called FLASH-ODFM, a system unique in its basis on Internet IP protocols—a base station acts as a router that connects mobile phones with modem cards to the Internet. This technology is being tested by a number of major telecommunications companies in the United States and abroad.
In essence, the technology helps companies extend IP-based Internet functions to mobile devices, efficiently transmitting data with minimal delay and quality of service support. Dr. Laroia’s invention is a cellular system that is packet-switched—messages are broken up into pieces (packets) before they are sent. His system not only is fast and requires less support, but it is highly spectrally efficient.
Lucent spun off Dr. Laroia’s research group in 2000, creating Flarion Technologies, with Dr. Laroia as founder and CTO. Flarion was purchased by Qualcomm in 2005, leading Dr. Laroia into the role of CTO for Qualcomm’s Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) Division.
Dr. Laroia holds 29 patents. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Reginald McNeill received his formal education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, the University of Florida and Bowie State University, where he earned his Masters degree in 2003. His entire educational career has been spent in Prince George’s County. He started his education career in 1992 as an elementary school teacher at James McHenry Elementary School. In 1996, Mr. McNeill was appointed Assistant Principal at Eleanor Roosevelt High School before finally taking the reigns as the Principal in 2007. Last year, Mr. McNeill was awarded the 2012 Excellence in Education Award from the Kiwanis Club of Mitchellville, Maryland.
Zoran Mladenovic is the General Manager of SDO (software development organization), DSP Systems Group at Texas Instruments. In this role, he is responsible for large global development organization, providing software development tools and embedded software for Texas Instruments processors. He is focused on organization execution and operational efficiency, as well as strategic technology direction with the particular emphasis on the open source software. Zoran has over 20 years of experience in all phases of software and hardware product development for the embedded systems. His prior professional engagements were in the area of data modems, voice over packet networks, Media Gateways and Wireless Base Station products, spanning over system engineering, software development and silicon architecture definition. Throughout his carrier he has been involved in both, product development and standardization efforts and holds multiple patents. He has a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Belgrade.
Dr. Nguyen has been working in the field of communications and signal processing for more than 25 years, with several published papers and patents in both areas. He has been a member of various technical committees in IEEE ComSoc, served in many ICC and Globecom conferences and symposia, most recently as leading Co-Chair of the Signal Processing Symposium for Globecom 2010. Currently, he holds the position of Vice-Chair of the Signal Processing and Communications Electronics (SPCE) Technical Committee in ComSoc. Dr. Nguyen was with a number of industrial companies such as ENSCO, Combustion Engineering, Raytheon, Orincon, Booze Allen Hamilton, ManTech and MedAcoustics before joining The Aerospace Corporation in Chantilly, VA where he is currently an Associate Director in the Engineering and Technology Group and provides technical direction and subject matter experts in the areas of wireless and optical communications, detection & estimation theory, modulation & coding theory, and networking for US government customers. Dr. Nguyen received his B.S.E.E. degree from the University of Maryland, an MS in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Ph.D. from George Mason University where he was also a Visiting Research Scientist in Array Signal Processing, and Adjunct Professor teaching wireless and multimedia communications. Dr. Nguyen was a recipient of several industrial awards & patents and is an IEEE Senior Member.
Bill Olsen is a Director and System Delivery Lead for Booz Allen’s Cyber and National Agencies accounts. He is experienced in large scale systems development, high performance computing, and Service Oriented Architectures. Bill has over 25 years of experience working for large System Integrators which include: Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Westinghouse. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Loyola University and a Bachelors of Engineering in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. For the last three years he has served on the Executive Advisory Board for the STEM organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics.
Samir Paul teaches at the Montgomery Blair High School Math/Science/Computer Science Magnet Program in Silver Spring, MD. His courses cover AP-level Java programming, algorithms, and theory of computation. He also has experience teaching high-school math and CS in DC Public Schools. While an undergraduate student, Samir led the teaching staff of Harvard's CS course in visualization and participated in research projects on genomic visualization and wireless sensor networks.
Dr. Benjamin Pontano has worked for more than thirty years in the field of satellite communications developing systems, technologies and products for the global telecommunications market. He recently retired from Comsat Laboratories (currently a division of ViaSat) which he ran for nearly ten years. Dr. Pontano has published more than 50 technical papers in the field of satellite communications and holds patents on interference measurement and cancellation and has patents pending in the area of code division multiple access (CDMA) and hybrid antenna systems. He has taught courses in telecommunications at George Washington University and has served on the Industrial Advisory Councils at both Carnegie Mellon University and The Pennsylvania State University. On April 3, 2000, he was honored as an Outstanding Engineering Alumnus of Penn State. He is currently a member of the Entrepreneur in Residence Program at the University of Utah. Dr. Pontano serves on the Editorial Boards for the International Journal of Satellite Communications and The Journal of Space Communications. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is a member of Sigma Xi scientific honorary society.
Milan Vlajnic is Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering & Operations, at Communication Technologies. He oversees day-to-day operations, product development, IT & engineering and technology strategy. He has a long track record of providing technology vision and business leadership in ever-evolving telecommunications marketplace.
Mr. Vlajnic has held senior executive positions in engineering, operations, general management and R&D with Nortel Networks, Bay Networks and Penril Datability, where he was leading advances in wireless, optical, signal processing, software engineering, IP media and voiceband modem technology. He received his Masters in General Administration from the University of Maryland and his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Belgrade.