New electrical and computer engineering professor brings defense industry experience to the classroom

A new professor brings her career experience in the defense industry to campus as the most recently added faculty member in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.

Cammy Peterson is originally from Bluffdale, Utah and attended BYU as an undergrad, majoring in applied physics. She got her master’s degree in applied physics from Johns Hopkins University  and then recieved a PhD in aerospace engineering at University of Maryland, all while simultaneously working in the defense industry. Working for the Johns Hopkins applied physics lab in the university’s government research facility, she performed data fusion types of applications and cooperative control work.

In academia, Peterson has primarily conducted research on the field of cooperative control as well as tracking target estimation, which connects to her days in the defense industry. She is continuing her research efforts as a professor at BYU.

Peterson's research is also aimed at using groups of autonomous vehicles that cooperate with each other and hopes to see her work make a big difference in the future. 

"I hope, in the future cooperating vehicles will be beneficial in a wide range of situations like enabling quicker search and rescue for lost hikers, using environmental data gathered of weather phenomena (like hurricanes and tornados) to better warn people of dangers, and providing the convenience that would come from autonomous package delivery," she said. "Obviously, there are a lot of people and companies who are doing high quality research in this area and hopefully, with the combined effort, we will be able to make these applications a reality in the near future."

Peterson has begun teaching linear systems and other classes on control theory and said students should look forward to working in her classes.

“I really want to see them succeed and I really want to help them out, but I don’t think you end up teaching at BYU if that’s not true,” she said. “I think all the professors here are really invested in helping the students succeed.”

Listening to her explain her passion for teaching, it is clear Peterson is ready and enthusiastic about her work at BYU.

“I think it’s just helping other people understand and learn because learning is such a cool thing,” she said. “When you get something, it’s really enabling in terms of helping you be able to do other things in the future. That whole stretching process where you have to wrap your head around new, difficult concepts is just awesome, so being able to help [students] grow in that way is what excites me.”

Being an engineer means a lot to Peterson, so teaching students along their way to becoming successful engineers is important.

“With engineering there is a lot of potential to make a huge impact on people’s lives," she said. "Just think about how different our lives are now than they were even ten years ago because of all the advances in engineering and technology, so engineers get to benefit society while solving some really fun problems."

The best advice she has for students is to stay positive in their academic efforts because the learning is worth it.

“Don’t get frustrated,” she said. “It takes a lot of effort to get there and your perceptions aren’t always reality. You’re probably doing better than you think.”

She also sees engineering as profession that serves society, something she wants her students to understand.

"Often in engineering there is a layer of separation between the engineers and the end users or customers, but that should not detract from knowing that the work is primarily aimed at creating a product or service that directly helps people," she said.  

In her free time, Peterson enjoys photography, reading and traveling, and cites the outdoors as a major hobby.

“I like being back in Utah because I like hiking,” she said. “I’ve been getting back into rock climbing and a little bit of running too.”

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