Jim Candy is a 'natural resource'

Feb. 14, 2014

Engineer Jim Candy has made a significant impact on Lawrence Livermore in his four decades of groundbreaking research. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL (Download Image)

Jim Candy is a 'natural resource'

Kenneth K Ma, ma28@llnl.gov, 925-423-7602
Ask Jim Candy if he plans to retire after working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for 38 years and the answer is no.

"I've never worked a day in my life," said the LLNL Engineering Directorate's chief scientist. "I love what I do. My job is just plain fun."

Candy, an East Coast transplant from Queens, N.Y., has made a significant impact on Lawrence Livermore in his four decades of groundbreaking research. As member of the Lab's Distinguished Members of the Technical Staff (DMTS), Candy has been called a "natural resource" by his colleagues for making numerous discoveries in the fields of signal and image processing and underwater acoustics.

The DMTS classification, created to serve as the top rung on a career ladder for LLNL scientists and engineers, appropriately recognizes Science, Technology & Engineering (ST&E) excellence with distinction and compensation while allowing the honored recipients to remain focused on delivering ST&E solutions to critical mission areas of the Lab. Only a limited number of scientists and engineers are selected for DMTS recognition: following the practices of other laboratories and industry, LLNL expects its DMTS population to remain within 2 percent to 3 percent of the eligible pool of scientists and engineers.

"It's a quite an honor to be a member of the DMTS," said Candy, who is using this opportunity to mentor early-career engineers, pass on his vast technical knowledge and provide sound advice. "To be recognized for my technical contributions in a world-renowned laboratory is pretty phenomenal."

Candy's path to the Laboratory began with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1966, followed by an M.S.E. and Ph.D. in the same field from the University of Florida between 1972 and 1976. During this time, he also served as a Captain in the Air Force and an engineer at General Electric.

While Candy loves his native New York and the University of Florida (he's an avid fan of Gator sports), he couldn't stay on the East Coast because of its legendary heat and humidity.

"I needed to find someplace that had the least amount of humidity and cools down at night," Candy said in his New York accent.

That place was Lawrence Livermore. It combined his desire to live in an ideal climate and provided a career to align with his passion to solve technical problems as an engineer.

Candy wasted no time in getting his feet wet. He got involved in a variety of projects in nuclear fusion, ultrasonics, hydrology, controls, array processing, electromagnetics, lasers, nuclear physics, internal waves, etc. Whenever there was a need to develop a new approach in processing, classification, estimation and detection, Candy was the first person his peers would call.

His groundbreaking discoveries came in the areas of model-based signal and image processing techniques, which help extract critical information from large amounts of measurement data sets that are noisy and uncertain. Candy's innovations have improved detection and measurement for applications in national security, materials science and medicine.

These discoveries have been applied to improve biomedical imaging for ultrasonic cancer detection; vibrational failure detection for prosthetic heart valves; target localization in ocean acoustics to find submarines; communications in room acoustics; detecting and imaging flaws in materials for nondestructive evaluation; detection of radioactive contraband in containers; and synthetic aperture for detecting and tracking underwater and airborne targets.

Candy's research incorporates a model-based approach that uses mathematical models to examine the underlying physics of an environment. He then uses a measurement process combined with signal processing techniques to gather data from that environment.

Take the ocean for example. Candy's model-based approach accounts for such factors as water temperature variations, movement of currents and depth - conditions that impact underwater acoustics --- and produces highly reliable data.

Candy's model-based technique was successfully tested in an underwater canyon at mouth of the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. That location is used by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center as a sonar test site.

He is an expert in the Bayesian approach to model-based signal processing. This uses a mathematical theory to calculate the posterior probability that data occurring in previous trials will predict the same target data in future trials. Candy used his deep knowledge of this theory to develop material detection capabilities.

As a result, he was part of an LLNL research team that won an R&D 100 Award in 2010 for developing software to detect radioactive contraband. The team built the statistical radiation detection system (SRaDS) for non-experts to use in gamma ray detector systems to rapidly and reliably detect radionuclides. This helps better screen cargo coming through U.S. ports without deterring the stream of commerce.

In 2008, Candy was part of another Lawrence Livermore research team that won an R&D 100 Award for developing automated technology for laser fusion systems. Known as the autonomous alignment process for laser fusion systems (AAPLF), the innovation was able to precisely align the National Ignition Facility's 192 laser beams in less than 15 minutes, eliminating human error.

Among Candy's numerous other accomplishments is his founding of the LLNL Center for Advanced Signal and Image Sciences (CASIS). The Center aims to develop an open liaison between various signal & image processing groups in industry, government and academia, and establish open channels for the transfer of technology. Candy served as the Center's first director.

Candy is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), as well as a life member (fellow) of Clare Hall College at England's famed University of Cambridge.

In 2002, he received the IEEE Distinguished Technical Achievement Award for his contributions of model-based signal processing to ocean engineering. In 2008, he received ASA's prestigious Helmholtz-Rayleigh Interdisciplinary Silver Medal for his contributions to acoustical signal processing and underwater acoustics.

The Laboratory veteran has published more than 225 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and technical reports, while writing four textbooks in his field as well as presenting over 50 technical lectures/short courses to his peers at worldwide universities and conferences. For all his achievements, Candy is always looking for the next big challenge.

"I love solving processing problems," he said.