Published: Jan. 29, 2020

Mark Lofquist after graduating from the TCP PhD program in December 2019

Dr. Mark Lofquist

Mark Lofquist graduated from the CU Boulder TCP Program with a PhD in Telecommunications Cybersecurity in December. He received his BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1999. Dr. Lofquist has specialized expertise in RF HW Design, simulation, analysis of wireless communications systems. He also worked for eight years in the mobile electronics industry. TCP had a chance to sit down with Dr. Lofquist recently and hear more about his extensive experience in the TCP career field.

Why did you choose the TCP program?

I knew I needed more education to advance in my career as Lead Communications Engineer at The MITRE Corporation. Much of my work is with the Department of Defense and they value people with PhDs. While I was shopping for programs to enroll in, the TCP at CU Boulder came highly recommended by colleagues of mine at the NTIA and the FCC.

How has the TCP program helped you? 

As an RF Engineer making and testing wireless communications systems, I was biased in my knowledge in only knowing how things work – TCP taught me where the telecom policies came from, the economic implications of the boom in wireless technologies. The entire academic experience taught me to be a better writer, researcher, to better organize my thoughts and produce impactful papers.
If you could talk to any student right now, what would you tell them?

I would encourage students to focus less on getting through the tests and assignments and focus more on why they are learning the materials presented. Understand that these facts, figure, programming, and reading assignments exist for you to have a better understanding of telecommunications. Everything you learn today will be the foundation to understand what is coming. Telecommunications is a very fast paced industry with product life cycles as short as one year, you must understand today to help build tomorrow.

Being a non-traditional student, what made you decide to come back to school later in your life? 

I “only” have approximately 20 years left in my professional career and I need to make the biggest impact that I can in that time. I knew broadening my knowledge in the field and learning and applying the aforementioned skills gained can make those last two decades really count.

Could you give me a brief summary of your dissertation?

Since the wireless industry’s growth accounts for a growing portion of the USA’s GDP, I wanted to present methods and techniques of more defensibly allocate spectrum. I worked to create a framework that applies statistics, risk assessment, and measurement science in making spectrum allocation decisions. This framework and through examples I attempted to guide spectrum stakeholders through the scientific rigor needed to make defensible and repeatable decisions.

Mark Lofquist's dissertation ended up in the hands of a national advisorWe heard that your dissertation fell into the hands of a national advisor. How did that experience go?

There were meetings in the White House and Pentagon about USA leading the world in 5G deployments. When asked if the USA was overly protecting the spectrum used by Federal services thus inadvertently stifling the Nation’s 5G roll-out, the Deputy Secretary of Defense met with the National Science Advisor, former NASA Administrator, and representatives of the Armed Services. In this meeting the research and methods of my dissertation was brought up. Plots and text from my dissertation were passed around the room. Since then, the former NASA Administrator has contacted me to assist in preparing a paper on the subject of interference protection for Defense Department spectrum dependent systems. He said my work offered fantastic scientific rigor and I was an “American Hero” for assisting in the matter! This was a compliment I will always remember and I need to give thanks to the CU advisors, committee members, and faculty for making this happen.

What are your plans for the future?

Using my academic credentials and newfound knowledge, I hope further impact the way spectrum dependent systems are tested and deployed with a goal of protecting Federal systems while encouraging this country’s economic growth. I also hope to gain a seat as an adjunct faculty member to help teach Wireless Communications at CU Boulder.
Mark Lofquist is an incredible example of how the TCP program can be joined at any point in your academic or professional career. You can learn more about him on his LinkedIn page or on the NIST website.