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Staff Profile: Prof J G McWhirter


Prof John G McWhirter
FREng, FRS, BSc, PhD, FIMA, FInstP, CMath, CSci



Distinguished Research Professor
Research and Academic Leadership in Digital Signal Processing


Teaching Discipline:

Electrical & Electronic Engineering


Research Theme:

Health, Technology and the Digital World


Research Group:

Biomedical Engineering Research Group






029 2087 0627





John McWhirter graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Mathematics from the Queen’s University of Belfast in 1970. He gained a PhD from the same University in 1973 for research on atomic collision theory. Immediately afterwards, he joined the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (now part of QinetiQ ltd) in Malvern.

In 1979 he started a programme of personal research on digital signal processing (DSP) with particular emphasis on algorithms and architectures for adaptive filtering and beamforming. His research covered a broad range of topics from novel mathematical techniques to parallel computing and VLSI design. He gained international recognition for his work on the design of systolic array processors and is particularly well known for inventing the triangular QR array for adaptive beamforming which bears his name. Other notable achievements include the QR least squares lattice algorithm for adaptive filtering and the design of a low-latency, bit-level systolic array for IIR filtering based on redundant number systems.

He went on to develop and promote the concept of Algorithmic Engineering. This constitutes a simple but rigorous diagrammatic methodology for the design of signal processing algorithms and architectures. It encapsulates much of his previous work in a form which makes it more accessible to other DSP engineers.

Professor McWhirter was a founder member of the IEE professional subgroup for signal processing (E5) and was awarded the JJ Thompson Premium in 1990 for a paper on adaptive beamforming. In 1994 he received the JJ Thompson Medal from the IEE for his research on Systolic Arrays and Mathematics in Signal Processing. Within the Civil Service, he was promoted to Senior Principal Scientific Officer (Individual Merit) in 1986 and to Deputy Chief Scientific Officer (Individual Merit) in 1995.

For the last few years, Prof McWhirter's research has been devoted to independent component analysis for blind signal separation and polynomial matrix algorithms for broadband sensor array signal processing. This work has application to radar, sonar, seismology, medical diagnostics and wireless communications. Some of this research was carried out in collaboraton with the Centre of Digital Signal Processing in Cardiff under the QinetiQ-University partnership scheme, with the help of two EPSRC-funded ICASE students based in Malvern.

Prof McWhirter is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). He helped to establish and still organises the long-running series of IMA conferences on Mathematics in Signal Processing. He was elected as a member of the IMA Council in 1995 and served as President for 2002 and 2003.

He has been an Honorary Visiting Professor in Electrical Engineering at Queen’s University, Belfast since 1986 and at Cardiff University since 1998. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1996 and as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. He received Honorary Doctorates from the Queen's University of Belfast in 2000 and the University of Edinburgh in 2002.

Prof McWhirter left QinetiQ on 31 August 2007 to take up his current post as Distinguished Research Professor in Engineering at Cardiff.


Professional Activities and Recognition:

• Arne Magnus Lecture Award, Colorado State University (2004); European Association for Signal Processing Technical Achievement Award (2003)

• President, Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (2002-3)

• Chair, Council of Mathematical Sciences (2003)

• Member of the IMA Council (2001-), Royal Society University Research Fellowship Panel 1 (2004-6), Royal Society Sectional Committee 4 (2001-3), EPSRC selection panel for Communications (2006), Royal Academy of Engineering Membership Panel 3 (2006-), Scientific Steering Committee and National Advisory Board for Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge (2003-)

• Reader for Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher Education