Daniel Selva

Daniel Selva, International Faculty Fellow

"Internationalization is one of the defining principles of Cornell’s identity…"



I consider exposure to cultural diversity an extremely important element in higher education. Not only does it foster tolerance and sensitivity to human rights issues, but it also produces professionals who are more capable of taking a global perspective and thinking out of the box when facing a problem.

My work focuses on the design of new systems of satellites that provide measurements of the Earth’s land, oceans, and atmosphere. Traditional Earth-observing satellites are based in bus-sized structures that carry several instruments and are very costly to develop, launch, and operate. I am studying novel architectures for satellite systems that exploit recent advances in nanosatellite technology and artificial intelligence. A CubeSat is a little smaller than the box of Kleenex that I have on my desk. Typical CubeSats are 1U (about 1 Kleenex box) to 3U (about 3 Kleenex boxes one on top of the other). In one of my current projects, we are designing a constellation of 12 to 18 CubeSats that measure vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and humidity. These measurements can be used to improve our ability to forecast and handle extreme-weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms.

MicroMAS-1, a satellite built by MIT/Lincoln Lab

In another project, we are developing an intelligent software program that can interact with engineers to help them design better satellites and satellite constellations. In this work we use evolutionary algorithms which are inspired by natural selection. More recently I have started incorporating swarm intelligence, which is based on large groups of identical agents – like ants or bees – from which complex behavior emerges despite the simplicity of the actions taken by individual agents. Fascinating stuff!

All our projects have the potential to have a global-scale impact, and we have been collaborating with NASA, as well as with universities in Barcelona, Toulouse, Moscow, and Boston.

The IFF Program provides a forum to promote my international work to other departments and colleges, through the program’s online presence and by helping me organize luncheons or workshops on specific topics. For example, I am planning a workshop with the Cornell Institute for European Studies on the differences in engineering education between Europe, the U. S., and elsewhere.

A global citizen is someone who has a high sensitivity to issues that occur outside of his/her own territory and a desire to help solve these issues. The three key aspects of a global citizen are similar to the three components of most autonomous vehicles:

1) Sensory:

A global citizen must stay informed of what happens in the global community in order to identify opportunities to help.

2) Decision-making:

A global citizen must have critical analysis capabilities in order to identify a course of action that will contribute to solving issues.

3) Action-oriented:

A global citizen must have the drive and skills necessary to execute the planned course of action.

These three aspects can only be obtained through a combination of traditional education, programs to develop communication and leadership skills, programs to foster diversity, and opportunities for international study such as internships.