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Dr. Natalia Nikolova


Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Microwave and millimeter-wave imaging and detection; Inverse problems; Computational electrodynamics; Computer-aided analysis and design; Radar ; Antennas ; Microwave devices
Areas of Specialization:
Research Clusters:
+1 905.525.9140 x 27141
ITB-A201 (student desks) and ITB-AB105 (experimental facility)
+1 905.525.9140 x 24726


My team works on radio-frequency, microwave and millimeter-wave imaging and detection. This research area is the next frontier of wireless technology. Our current focus is on: (i) the detection of on-body concealed weapons on walking persons, (ii) microwave breast imaging for cancer screening, and (iii) detection of structural flaws (e.g., cracks and pits) under protective coatings in industrial applications.

Our cognitive radar for the stand-off detection of on-body concealed weapons detects various threats such as handguns, knives, grenades and explosive vests hidden under the clothing of persons who may be standing or walking nearby (within a range of about 3 m). It is small and inconspicuous enabling covert surveillance. It can be installed behind the wall, at an entranceway, a foyer, or a hallway. Our long-term goal is to deploy networks of such radar units, which will work in collaboration with CCTV cameras, providing much needed layer of security in public transit, schools, places of entertainment, etc.

Meanwhile, we push the limits of this technology by increasing the detection range to 15 or 20 meters in an unpredictable outdoor environment. This technology aims at providing military, police and security professionals with an early warning system during field operations involving armed dangerous individuals. The small size of the system will enable portable or wearable deployment.

My team is also in the forefront of the development of near-field microwave imaging systems with applications in tissue imaging and non-destructive testing. We are developing a new generation of electronically-switched microwave sensor arrays that will provide unprecedented scanning speeds. Each sensor in the array is a miniature radio. Our goal is to reduce the acquisition time and the image generation to less than a minute. An exciting application of this technology is a compact, safe, and low-cost scanner for early-stage breast-cancer detection that could increase dramatically the outreach and the efficiency of the breast-cancer screening programs.


Dipl.Eng. and M.Eng. (Technical University of Varna, Bulgaria), Ph.D. (University if Electro-Communications, Tokyo, Japan)

Did you know…

Prof. Nikolova authored the book titled “Introduction to Microwave Imaging”. This first-ever introductory-level text targets a diverse audience of beginners: graduate students, RF/microwave engineers who are venturing into the field of imaging, and imaging experts who want to learn about the use of microwaves and millimeter waves in the imaging of optically obscured targets.

The concealed-weapon detection radar technology developed by Nikolova’s microwave team is being commercialized by Patriot One Technologies Ltd.. Patriot One won the Award for Anti-terrorism/Force Protection at ISC West 2017.

The stand-off concealed-weapon detection system for personnel protection is a 3-year collaborative project between Prof. Nikolova’s team at McMaster University and Prof. Naydenko’s team at the National Technical University of Ukraine (NTUU), also known as Kyiv Polytechnic Institure (KPI). The project is funded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) through the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme.

Prof. Nikolova was elevated to a Fellow of the IEEE by the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society in 2011 for her work on methods for the sensitivity analysis of high-frequency electromagnetic structures. This work helped accelerate dramatically the computer-aided design of microwave components and antennas.

Prof. Nikolova served as a Distinguished Microwave Lecturer of the IEEE from 2010 to 2013 and her lecture titled “Microwave near-field imaging of human tissue: hopes, challenges, outlook” had been delivered at 29 locations around the world.


Natalia K. Nikolova received the Dipl.Eng. degree in Radio Electronics (M.Eng. equivalent) from the Technical University of Varna, Bulgaria, in 1989, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Electro-Communications, Tokyo, Japan, in 1997. From 1998 to 1999, she held a Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), during which time she was initially with the Microwave and Electromagnetics Laboratory, DalTech, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, and, later, for a year, with the Simulation Optimization Systems Research Laboratory, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada. In July 1999, she joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, McMaster University, where she is currently a Professor. Her research interests include inverse scattering and microwave imaging, theoretical and computational electromagnetism, as well as high-frequency computer-aided design.

Prof. Nikolova was the recipient of a University Faculty Award of NSERC from 2000 to 2005. Since 2008, she is a Canada Research Chair in High-frequency Electromagnetics. She is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE). She served as a Distinguished Microwave Lecturer from 2010 to 2013. She currently serves on three IEEE Technical Coordinating Committees: MTT-1 (Computer-aided Design), MTT-10 (Biological Effects and Medical Applications), and MTT-15 (Microwave Field Theory). She served as an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques in 2014 and 2015. She is a correspondent of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI).



Nikolova, N.K. (2017)

Introduction to Microwave Imaging

Cambridge University Press

Natalia Nikolova has created an outstanding, self-contained resource for students, researchers, and practitioners in the field of microwave imaging.

Wolfgang J. R. Hoefer, University of Victoria

Nikolova, N.K. (2011)

Microwave imaging for breast cancer

IEEE Microwave Mag., vol. 12, no. 7, pp. 78–94

Dadash, M.S., Nikolova, N.K., and Bandler, J.W. (2012)

Analytical adjoint sensitivity formula for the scattering parameters of metallic structures

IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech., vol. 60, no. 9, pp. 2713–2722

Dadash, M.S., and Nikolova, N.K. (2014)

Analytical S-parameter sensitivity formula for the shape parameters of dielectric objects

IEEE Microw. Wireless Comp. Lett., vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 291–293

Beaverstone, A.S., Shumakov, D.S., and Nikolova, N.K. (2017)

Integral equations of scattering for scalar frequency-domain responses

IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech., vol. 64, no. 4, pp. 1120–1132, Apr. 2017

Amineh, R.K., McCombe, J., Khalatpour, A., and Nikolova, N.K. (2015)

Microwave holography using measured point-spread functions

IEEE Trans. Instrum.&Meas., vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 403–417, Feb. 2015



1.            D.S. Shumakov and N.K. Nikolova, “Fast quantitative microwave imaging with scattered power maps,” IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech. (accepted Apr. 13, 2017)


2.            D.S. Shumakov, A.S. Beaverstone, and N.K. Nikolova, “De-noising algorithm for enhancing microwave imaging,” The IET J. Eng., DOI: 10.1049/joe.2016.0207, Mar. 2017.

3.            A.S. Beaverstone, D.S. Shumakov, and N.K. Nikolova, “Integral equations of scattering for scalar frequency-domain responses,” IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech., vol. 64, no. 4, pp. 1120–1132, Apr. 2017.

4.            D.S. Shumakov, A.S. Beaverstone, and N.K. Nikolova, “Optimal illumination schemes for near-field microwave imaging,” Progress in Electromagnetic Research (PIER), vol. 157, pp. 93–110, 2016. 

5.            S. Tu, J.J. McCombe, and N.K. Nikolova, “Fast quantitative microwave imaging with resolvent kernel extracted from measurements,” Inverse Problems, vol. 31 no. 4, 045007, (33 pp), Apr. 2015.

6.            R.K. Amineh, J. McCombe, A. Khalatpour, and N.K. Nikolova, “Microwave holography using measured point-spread functions,” IEEE Trans. Instrum.&Meas., vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 403– 417, Feb. 2015.

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Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE)

Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in High Frequency Electromagnetics (2008-2018)

P.Eng. (ON)