April 5, 2024

UCalgary geomatics professor named Institute of Navigation Fellow

Dr. Susan Skone recognized for her research, contributions and selfless service
Susan Skone ION Fellow
Susan Skone, centre, was named a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation alongside Keith McDonald, left, and Sanjeev Gunawardena. Institute of Navigation

From the sea to the stars and all points in between, Dr. Susan Skone, PhD’99, has always been fascinated by the science of location.

A professor in the Department of Geomatics Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering and associate vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary, she has been an innovator and leader in geospace studies.

The Institute of Navigation (ION), a non-profit professional society advancing the art and science of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), has recognized Skone for her efforts by inducting her as an ION Fellow. It is the organization’s highest honour for members who have made outstanding sustained contributions to PNT.

“Dr. Skone has been elected for her sustained contributions to the advancement of geospace studies using global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and related subjects, and for her selfless service to the broader community,” said the organization in a news release.

The fellowship came as a surprise to Skone, who says the technological evolution we have seen in the world has dramatically changed how we all work together.

“The community is now global and there are so many good research programs in positioning, navigation and timing – including those led by my UCalgary colleagues,” she says. “To be recognized amongst my peers is humbling.”

Discovering her passions

Skone’s introduction to engineering and GNSS came nearly three decades ago when the Canadian Armed Forces opened up the occupation of maritime surface and subsurface (MARS) officer to women.

Skone was an officer-candidate beginning her training and immediately reclassified to become a ship’s navigator, as she believed it was a timely opportunity for hands-on learning in an operational environment.

“I was especially fascinated by the new global positioning system (GPS),” Skone says. 

“This was clearly the future and I wanted to be a part of it.”

She earned her Master of Science in space physics and then took her PhD in geomatics engineering at UCalgary, allowing her different interests to come together.

Here, there and everywhere

While serving as a MARS officer in the Royal Canadian Navy (Reserves) for more than 25 years, she pursued academia with UCalgary to instill her love of the industry into future generations.

She has also served as interim head of the Department of Geomatics Engineering as well as associate dean (research) at Schulich.

During that time, Skone has also held positions with the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute Executive Council, Tecterra and Cybera boards of Ddrectors, and the National Science Foundation CEDAR steering committee, all while her research team has received more than 20 awards in aerospace research.

Also named a 2023 Killam Annual Professor, Skone says she’s most proud of the nearly 50 sponsored research and innovation projects that have delivered solutions to some of the industry’s biggest challenges.

“These range from developing satellite payloads to ensuring the integrity of Canada’s commercial aviation and maritime-navigation systems,” Skone says. “I find the real-world implementation challenging but most rewarding.”

Where she’s going from here

A co-lead on the Space-Defence Technologies Alberta (SDTech AB) project through Alberta’s Major Innovation Fund, Skone says her research program is continuing to grow.

“Our current work focuses on several projects with the Canadian Space Agency and Department of National Defence,” she says. “Our research will characterize the space environment for Canada and mitigating threats to radio-frequency based systems including GNSS.”

Skone says some exciting new spin-off opportunities have come from some work she has been working on with federal stakeholders on quantum-resistant anti-spoofing technology that could future-proof the digital world against potential and likely cyber-threats.

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