Breakall receives high honor from Radio Club of America

September 22, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — James Breakall, professor of electrical engineering at Penn State, has been awarded the Radio Club of America’s (RCA) Sarnoff Citation, for 2017.

RCA established the award in 1973 to recognize an individual or club member for “significant contributions to the advancement of electronic communications.” According to the club, the award is intended for those “who have contributed to advancement of electronic communications in any significant manner, including nontechnical support of the wireless industry.”

“I am very honored and humbled to receive this most prestigious award along with many past luminaries who received this honor,” Breakall said. “As a professor, I really feel that this award is really for not just me but all of my very deserving graduate students and colleagues who I have worked with over the years. I would not have been so honored without all of their help and support. I am so very much appreciative to have been given such recognition.”

Breakall, who also is an antenna designer and an American Relay Radio League member, said that amateur radio inspired his career. His interest in ham radio began when he was 9 years old and by the age of 12, he had his ham radio license.

“I did a lot of experimenting with antennas during my youth and up to the present. When I came to Penn State, I worked for Dr. Ferraro (emeritus professor of electrical engineering) on his experimental ionosphere facility at Scotia and was hooked into radio and antenna research,” Breakall said. “I then went to the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and got even more fascinated with antennas since it has the largest in the world, a 1000-foot dish. After my Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University working with the Arecibo antenna, I went to work at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California on the only antenna simulation software at the time and then eventually came to Penn State as a professor in 1989, and have been working in the radio and antenna field ever since.”

Known in ham radio circles as "Doctor Jim," Breakall is credited with developing the optimized wideband antenna (OWA) — an antenna for ham radios that performed much better than any other at that time — as well as antennas for such research facilities as Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and High Frequency Auroral Research Program (HAARP), an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The Sarnoff Citation is among the RCA's most coveted awards for individual achievement and is awarded based upon exemplary technical advances in antenna simulation and antenna design.

Other recipients of this award include: Senator Barry Goldwater; Nick Holonyak, who invented light-emitting diode (LED); Irwin Mark Jacobs, the founder and chairman of Qualcomm; and Brian Williams, the NBC journalist.

RCA was founded in 1909 and is the oldest group of wireless communications professionals around the world, who are dedicated to the wireless art and science for the betterment of society.

  • James Breakall

    James Breakall

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated September 22, 2017