PECASE Award boosts engineer's efforts to provide rural IT services


Multitier wireless networks could hold key for underserved areas

Shalinee Kishore, an electrical engineer who seeks to use wireless networks to provide rural areas with Internet and cell-phone access, has won the top award given to young scientists and engineers by the federal government.

Kishore, the P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., received the 2004 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President George W. Bush.

A reception ceremony was held June 13 at the White House for Kishore and the nation's other 57 PECASE winners. President Bush gave the young scientists and engineers a tour of the White House and spoke to them for 30 minutes.

Kishore is one of 20 PECASE winners nominated by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The remaining 38 recipients were nominated by eight other federal agencies, including NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health.

The PECASE program, established in 1996, honors young researchers whose work shows "exceptional promise for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge during the 21st century."

Nominees for the PECASE award are chosen from among the 350 to 400 young professors in the U.S. who typically receive NSF's Faculty Early Career Program (CAREER) Award during the year the PECASE award is given.

Kishore received a CAREER Award from NSF in 2003 to demonstrate the usefulness of multitier wireless networks in remote, under-served regions by developing an outreach program with Susquehanna County in northern Pennsylvania.

Multitier wireless networks contain components (base stations and/or user terminals) whose coverage areas can vary in their order magnitude. The multitier wireless networks that Kishore is designing can simultaneously provide ubiquitous low-rate coverage (for cell phones) and targeted high-speed Internet access through a network of base stations and user terminals.

Last summer Kishore held a seven-day workshop in Susquehanna County to explain the principles of wireless communications and to help residents develop ideas for adapting the technology to the county's unique communications needs. To demonstrate its benefits, she and her students set up a wi-fi (wireless local area network) demonstration at the county's annual Blueberry Festival.

Susquehanna County's rugged terrain is not hospitable to the laying of cable and wires. The county lacks adequate cellular coverage and high-speed internet access as well as reliable 9-1-1 services. One of the county's six high schools has wi-fi Internet access, but overall, the county lacks localized broadband access, and its existing wireless links are poor.

The county's low population density gives providers of Internet services little incentive to install the wires necessary for digital or cable-modem access.

One of Kishore's goals is to determine how to provide the maximum amount of wireless signal coverage with the minimum number of base stations, or transmitting and receiving stations. In identifying the optimal wireless communication infrastructure for the county, she will take into consideration the demographics of the region, including the communication needs of county residents.

To this end, two of Kishore's students are compiling a radio contour map of Susquehanna County. The color-graded map will show which geographical regions of the county, based on the location of hills, mountains and other topographical features, currently have high or low radio signal coverage.

To obtain this map, the students will drive around Susquehanna County and use spectrum analyzers and GPS measurement devices to collect data. They will also use results from sophisticated radio propagation software packages.

Three Ph.D. candidates studying with Kishore are conducting theoretical research on the design and performance of multitier wireless networks. Their results will be combined with the radio contour map to design an adequate wireless network for Susquehanna County.

Kishore's goal is to optimize scarce bandwidth and minimize interference caused by reuse of the bandwidth spectrum across tiers. She says her approach represents "a novel and expansive study of spectrally efficient multitier architectures."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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